INDIANAPOLIS – The cancellation of conventions, conferences and trade shows due to the coronavirus pandemic has had a devastating impact on tourism in Indianapolis, a tourism official said.
Indianapolis attracted a record-breaking 30 million visitors last year, according to Chris Gahl, the senior vice president of marketing and communications for Visit Indy. Gahl said his nonprofit is doing its best to salvage the 2020 events that have been called off.
“We are working with a sense of urgency, alongside the Indiana Convention Center and our hotel partners, to move as many of these conventions from cancellations to postponements,” he told the Indianapolis Star.
Typically about 70% of Indianapolis hotel rooms are occupied, but hotels are currently at around 7% occupancy. More than 80,000 residents depend on tourism for a paycheck, according to Visit Indy statistics, which show that visitors typically spend $5.6 billion in Indianapolis and generate $725 million in state and local taxes.
“They're hurting,” Gahl said of workers who cater to out-of-town visitors at restaurants, bars, entertainment venues and other businesses. “They're aching. We have virtually no tourists arriving into Indianapolis.”
Gov. Eric Holcomb has said he hopes to reopen parts of Indiana's economy starting in May, though organizers of conventions, sporting events, concerts and other events might have to wait longer.
M-Pact, a trade show for gas stations and convenience stores that usually attracts about 4,000 attendees from Indiana, Ohio, Illinois and Kentucky, had been planned for March 24-26 at the Indiana Convention Center but was postponed to July 22-24.
“If there's still a stay-at-home order, then we probably will be canceled for the year,” said Scot Imus, executive director of the Indiana Food & Fuel Association and one of the show's organizers.