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MAKING AN INVESTMENT: The Springfield Convention & Visitors Bureau invested $24,000 in an incentive program in 2020 for meeting planners to book group events. It's estimated to generate 6,000 room nights and a $3 million economic impact by the end of 2023.
Heather Mosley | SBJ
MAKING AN INVESTMENT: The Springfield Convention & Visitors Bureau invested $24,000 in an incentive program in 2020 for meeting planners to book group events. It's estimated to generate 6,000 room nights and a $3 million economic impact by the end of 2023.

Springfield CVB starts incentive program to draw events

Posted online

A new Springfield Convention & Visitors Bureau Inc. program aims to draw more event and meeting business from outside the Queen City via financial incentives.

The program – dubbed Incentives+ – launched Jan. 1 as a follow-up to a similar campaign in 2020 to drum up interest in booking events, meetings and conventions amid the coronavirus pandemic. Dana Maugans, Springfield CVB’s sales director, said the organization estimates a $24,000 investment for the initiative, which offers a rebate up to $10 per hotel room night. The investment will change based on the number of groups that utilize the incentive.

Maugan said the CVB hopes events booked using program incentives results in an economic impact of at least $3 million.

“It’s basically to fill dates that are slow with group business,” she said, noting those typically are in the winter or around holiday weekends.

No federal or state dollars will be used for the new program, as money will come out of the CVB budget, which is roughly $4.3 million for fiscal 2022.

“We have a line item in the budget for group incentives,” she said. “We always put a little bit extra in the budget just in case we need to use it.”

Bookings need to be made by Dec. 31 and events are to be held by the end of 2024. For dates in January, February, November and December over the next three years, groups can get the $10 rebate per room night. The rebate is $5 for dates in April, May, September and October. The CVB will pay up to 40% of the financial incentive when a contract is signed and the remaining 60% within 30 days after the group convenes.

Officials with the tourist organization estimated lost group business in 2020 due to the pandemic resulted in the city missing out on at least $44 million in spending.

The $24,000 investment is based on the same amount the CVB spent two years ago on its zero attrition and financial incentives program, which covered the event booking period between June 2020 and Dec. 31, 2021. The groups that booked through that initiative have until the end of 2023 to hold their event to receive the incentive.

“That was basically to help alleviate what’s called attrition that hotels will charge if a group doesn’t pick up their percentage of a room block,” she said.

For example, if a group cancels or they don’t pick up the rooms blocked, the hotel may end up unable to get them rented during that same period, Maugans said. The group will then need to pay the difference, which can be 20% or 30%, she said, adding each hotel has a different attrition rate.

The zero-attrition program was a result of CVB staff surveying the needs of convention planners around the state, Maugans said. The planners favored the zero-attrition rate as a financial incentive, as well as desiring technology capabilities to have a hybrid meeting, if need be.

Maugans said 15 groups were booked through the previous incentive program and roughly 6,000 room nights will be generated from the events, which cover 2021-23. CVB officials estimate the economic impact will land around $3 million.

“We’re hopeful for at least the same if not better,” she said of the projections for Incentives+. “It’s just so hard to know right now.”

According to CVB data, the economic impact for 2022 events, including those using program incentives, is expected to reach roughly $29.4 million and over 60,000 room nights are booked. That’s on pace to eclipse last year, which had nearly 59,000 room nights booked and a $26.8 million economic impact. Two sports-related events in March are the largest on the calendar by number of room nights booked and economic impact, according to the CVB. The National Christian HomeSchool Championships is expected to have 6,120 room nights booked and generate a $5.3 million economic impact. That’s followed by the Missouri State High School Activities Association’s state basketball championships, which is set to book 6,800 room nights with an economic impact of $3.9 million.

“The mission at the Convention & Visitors Bureau is to create economic impact,” Maugans said. “There is pent-up demand for group business like there was pent-up demand for leisure travel.”

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