Friday, August 18, 2000

Big weekend for business with tourists


Hotels, eateries humming

By John Eckberg
The Cincinnati Enquirer

        If this weekend is not among the summer's busiest in Cincinnati, then why were William Hooks and his staff at Manhattan West working so hard?

        The owner, president and — at least on Thursday afternoon — food preparation manager at Manhattan West in Pleasant Ridge, Mr. Hooks is ready for a busy weekend serving gourmet food in a Southern style.

        “We have probably ordered about a third more food than we do for a normal weekend,” Mr. Hooks said. “Tonight we have a party of 15 who came in from Boston for the Midwest Black Family Reunion. This weekend will be a good shot in the arm for any business that has something to offer.”

        The reunion is just one of a host of weekend activities expected to draw hundreds of thousands with hotels and restaurants expected to reap the economic benefit.

        Over the next few days: Jimmy Buffett takes the stage at Riverbend on Saturday. Pearl Jam and Sonic Youth perform Sunday. Both concerts are sold out. Duran Duran plays Paramount's Kings Island on Saturday, while Christina Aguilera sashays on the Riverbend stage on Monday.

        All the while, downtown will be throbbing with people:

        Tens of thousands are expected at Sawyer Point for the Midwest Black Family Reunion Celebration, the christening of Paul Brown Stadium at Saturday's preseason game between the Bengals and the Chicago Bears, and a series through Sunday between the Reds and the Pittsburgh Pirates at Cinergy Field.

        Visitors are filling hotel and motel rooms, said Kenya Bush, manager of the Red Roof Inn, an 80-room motel in Columbia Township. The one room still available for Saturday was not expected to last long, she said.

        “It's because of the reunion, the Bengals, Jimmy Buffett and the Reds,” she said. “That's a lot going on.”

        There were no vacancies at the Hannaford Suites Hotel in Newport, said Roger Fangman, general manager.

        “We did real good with the Reds this year. Especially on the weekends.”

        At the 321-room Crowne Plaza on West Sixth Street downtown, manager on duty Yolanda McAllister expected the hotel to be fully sold by the weekend.

        It is a dream for those who tout the city as a tourist destination.

        “I've heard that the Black Family Reunion economic impact is estimated at $16 million,” said Gayle Harden-Renfro, communications director for the Greater Cincinnati Convention and Visitors Bureau.

        But the real value of this weekend's multiple events will be long term.

        “Anytime you introduce people to the city for the first time — when they see Paramount's Kings Island, the Museum Center, whether they read about it or pass by, it piques their interest to come back for more.

        “... Cincinnati is too much fun for one day,” Ms. Harden-Renfro said.

        Steven Love, vice president and general manager of Blue Chip Broadcasting Cincinnati, estimated the impact of the reunion at $18 million, placing it among the city's top three events annually.

        It draws from a four-state area, said Mr. Love.

        “They spend money on food — spend money on what our community has to offer.”

        A May report by the Greater Cincinnati Center for Economic Education at the University of Cin cinnati projected major summer festivals generate an impact of $189 million locally and create 3,359 jobs.

        About $89 million comes from out-of-towners, economists reported.

        But measuring the economic impact of tourism can be a smoke-and-mirrors exercise, said economist Richard N. Cardozo, who holds the Curtis L. Carlson Chair in Entrepreneurial Studies at the Carlson School of Management at the University of Minnesota in Minneapolis.

        “It's like you caught 100 fish — when in fact you hooked 95 but only took five fish home,” said Dr. Cardozo.

        The problem for economists is that different segments of tourists will spend different amounts of money.

        For instance, if a family of four spends $250 on seats and food for a Bengals game, will that same family then spend another $200 on dinner at a fine restaurant on the same trip to town?

        Not likely, Dr. Cardozo said.

        In fact, money that might have gone toward a $200 dinner is now down at Paul Brown Stadium — instead of in the cash drawer of a local restaurateur.

        Predicting spending has plenty of pitfalls, he said. “We recently had an Alcoholics Anonymous convention in town and everybody was worried about the bar industry,” he said.

        “It turns that the bar owners were not unhappy. They served a lot of lemonade. They were delighted.”

       



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