Mayor Hale, my name is Edward Robie, Senior Meeting Manager for the Technical Association of the Pulp and Paper Industry (TAPPI) based in Atlanta, Georgia. I am a Certified Meeting Professional (CMP) and responsible for the site selection and management of several of TAPPI’s major continuing education conferences. I am also a member of Travel Portland’s Customer Advisory Board.
Portland would be a likely candidate for TAPPI’s larger conferences and exhibits that require the amount of space that the Oregon Convention Center can provide. However, the lack of a quality headquarters hotel with a block of 750 – 800 guest rooms on peak night and adjacent or connected to the convention center prevents us from considering Portland for these events. One of which averages 1500 attendees. Our attendees request that we book hotels close to the convention center and some exhibiting companies prefer to reserve hospitality suites for entertainment purposes. Thus, having the majority of attendees in one hotel, adjacent to the convention center, is a must-have.
I have been bringing conferences to Portland since 1983. First while on staff of the Society of American Foresters and now with TAPPI. My most recent experience in Portland was a conference at the Oregon Convention Center in the fall of 2011. It was that 2011 experience that made it clear to me that Portland, Oregon needs a quality, major brand-name, headquarters hotel of 600 – 800+ rooms across the street or connected to the convention center. Many of our attendees at that conference were very disappointed at the quality of the hotels within a block or two of the convention center and let me know about it. Several even changed hotels!
In many respects, Portland is viewed very positively as a convention destination:
- The outstanding Oregon Convention Center.
- Visitor Development Fund available to qualified meetings.
- Destination appeal (restaurants, nightlife, and attraction to seacoast, mountains and forests).
- Cost-effective (no sales tax!).
- Knowledgeable and professional hospitality community.
- Free light rail (MAX and street car) for our conference attendees is a wonderful amenity.
- And most important for TAPPI is the proximity to the forest products industry and our members. We book our events where the forest products industry is centered.
In other very important aspects, Portland lags well behind it competitors:
- Lack of a major “anchor” hotel adjacent or connected to the Oregon Convention Center.
- Currently only small, less then quality hotels near the convention center.
- Hotel products spread out.
- An attractive area around the convention center with restaurants, bars, parks, and shops. A convention center headquarters hotel would create impetus for this development.
Our last meeting of the Travel Portland Customer Advisory Board was February 13-14, 2013. We were updated on the prospect regarding the current status of the convention center hotel project and I want to stress to you that the development and construction of a major, brand name convention center hotel is absolutely critical for Portland’s future success in the highly competitive convention and meetings market.
Edward F. Robie, CMP
Senior Meeting Manager