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Editorial: Tourism - Jacksonville, Florida is Leaking Money.
Hundreds of Millions of it Because Conventiongoers Went Elsewhere

The Florida Times-Union, JacksonvilleMcClatchy-Tribune Regional News

March 12, 2011--Jacksonville is leaking money. Hundreds of millions of it.

And it's being lost because of people you'll never see in the city: conventiongoers who went elsewhere.

Figures from Visit Jacksonville indicate Jacksonville has lost more than $380 million in outside visitor revenue since 2006 because our convention center can't compete against cities even smaller than ours.

The undersized Prime Osborn Convention Center can only go after about 13 percent of the potential convention business in the United States. It's also isolated from downtown entertainment and lacks adjacent convention hotel space.

Because of such factors, 170 groups that would have booked business in Jacksonville over the five years didn't, Visit Jacksonville says.

Two of the groups we missed out on used to come here for years: the Florida Fire Chief Association's Fire Rescue East and the Florida State Cheer and Dance Championship. They outgrew us and decided to go to Daytona instead.

So what can we do about it right now? Not much.

New convention centers cost lots of money, something the city doesn't have right now.

But, with a new courthouse opening next year and prime downtown space becoming available near major downtown hotels next year due to the opening of the new courthouse, a new convention center will factor into the public discussion as the city looks ahead to its future.

That debate -- whenever it kicks in -- will be a lot about the money it will take to build a new center.

But it should also be about the money we'll miss out on if we don't at some point.


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Copyright (c) 2011, The Florida Times-Union, Jacksonville

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