By Bob Andelman
Corporate Meetings & Incentives Magazine
May 1, 2008 12:00 PM

There may be a hotel seller’s market nationwide, but meetings are still being courted in the South-Central states, where billions of dollars are being spent on new hotels, venues, convention centers, and mass transit.

It’s not just happening in St. Louis; Kansas City, Mo.; and Little Rock, Ark. Traditional secondary cities such as Wichita, Kan.; Hot Springs, Ark.; and Branson, Mo., are all ramping up hospitality projects.

In Oklahoma, for example, the Greater Oklahoma City Chamber and Oklahoma City Convention & Visitors Bureau are conducting a study to address the future needs of the meetings market, including convention space. The past 18 months have seen the downtown capacity of hotel rooms more than double, to about 2,000 total rooms. During the next 12 months, the entire city’s hotel inventory is expected to grow from 14,000 to more than 17,000.

In Branson, the convention center that opened last year has prompted nearby venues to create more space for meetings, which is a shift from a leisure-travel focus.

In Arkansas, the Hot Springs Convention Center in January was spruced up with new carpeting throughout the 360,000-square-foot facility and new furniture in the public areas. In Fort Smith, a 12,000-square-foot Downtown Events Center opened its doors April 1 with an audiovisual system, a full kitchen, and Internet/computer connections.

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