“Conferences like this really help secure so many jobs in Athens over the summer,” said Paul Cramer, executive director at the Classic Center, the downtown convention and performance space that has hosted the convention for 13 of the last 14 years.
With 3,000 people spending an estimated $200 per overnight stay, the overall economic impact to Athens is estimated at around $2.2 million.
But, Cramer said, “It’s not just about the ways the Methodist conference is giving back in terms of economic impact, but also how much they’re giving back to the community.” While they were in town, the Methodists hosted a blood drive, staged a 5K run to benefit the homeless and packed boxes of school supplies for children in need around the world.
The Classic Center is undergoing a massive local sales tax-funded expansion, but is working to accommodate groups, like the Methodists, that have booked the facility as construction proceeds.
“Even though we’ve had to interrupt our construction,” Cramer said, “it will proceed on time and within budget. We’ve already signed a number of groups that we would not have been able to otherwise accommodate without our construction. This is really helping Athens during the summer months when it is typically seasonally slower.”
Scott Norris, vice president of sales at Benson’s Hospitality Group, which operates the Hilton Garden Inn, Holiday Inn, and Holiday Inn Express in downtown Athens, provided an idea of exactly how the Methodists’ meeting affects the local economy.
“There literally thousands of people set forth into the backyard of the downtown community and every business will be at capacity for three or four straight days,” he said.
“This is such a great room generator,” Norris continued. “Hotels in Athens generally follow the school schedule time frame, and summer is quite often a time where supply certainly outweighs demand. This really is an event that we look forward to every year.”
Jason Harwell, Benson’s marketing and communications manager, agrees.
“We absolutely love the Methodist conference every year. They’re not only great guests, but we love being a part of something so big year after year,” Harwell said. “The summer can most definitely be a slower season, but this is a huge boost, one of those events that really affects the pulse of our property and having all those folks here is really nice.”
Complete story found here: Methodist conference stimulates Athens economy in slow time | Online Athens.
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