Pittsburgh Celebrates Record-Setting Convention Year

At its annual meeting last week, Pittsburgh's convention and visitors bureau, VisitPittsburgh, announced that 2008 was the strongest year yet for its meetings and conventions business.

The year, which also happened to be Pittsburgh's 250th anniversary, saw a 31 percent increase in total meeting commitments, including a record-breaking 43 future convention bookings for the David L. Lawrence Convention Center.

"We continue to improve the product and that's what led to such a successful year," VisitPittsburgh CEO Joe McGrath said, according to local business journal Pittsburgh Business Times.

In addition to celebrating its 2008 bookings, VisitPittsburgh announced at least two new bookings for 2009. The first, the American Truck Association's 2009 National Truck Driving Championships, will draw an estimated 2,100 attendees who'll generate an estimated $3.23 million in direct spending. The second, the AFL/CIO Quadrennial Constitutional Convention, is projected to attract 2,000 attendees.

Local tourism officials expect those events and others to bode well for Pittsburgh's hotel market, which they said are enjoying occupancy levels well above the national average, despite the economic downturn.

"Other cities are reporting 20 percent declines in occupancy," said McGrath, who indicated that Pittsburgh's average decline is expected to be 14 percent. "We're predicted to be number one or number two again as far as hotel occupancy."