Cubs Fans Were Good for the Cleveland Hotels

H&LA President, Laurel Keller spoke with Crain’s Cleveland Business about the influx of Cubs fans to Cleveland for the World Series and what that meant for local hotels.. 

Published by: Kevin Klep/Crain’s Cleveland Business
Published date: November 2016

The influx of Chicago Cubs fans to Cleveland for the World Series might have made for an odd mix of home and away boosters at Progressive Field — with every run resulting in a huge roar — but it was much less annoying for the Northeast Ohio economy. In fact, it was a party fit for Mike Napoli.

The relatively short distance from Wrigley Field to Progressive Field (350 miles), combined with the Cubs’ historic World Series drought and national following, resulted in big spikes for airlines, bars, hotels, restaurants, retailers and even home rentals.

Those “dollars outside of the region coming in” provide more of an impact than, say, Progressive Field being packed with 95% Indians fans, said Jacob Duritsky, the vice president of strategy and research for Team NEO.

“You spend on the Cavs or the Tribe, but you might not spend on a restaurant,” said Duritsky, reiterating economists’ belief that local sports spending often is just a reallocation of fans’ entertainment budgets. “You might not go to a movie. The pool of dollars generally doesn’t change.”

The numbers obviously move greatly when there are tens of thousands of visitors from outside the region — as was the case when the Cubs won their first championship since 1908 in a seven-game classic against the Tribe.

The greatest reflection of that might be the Cleveland hotel market, which experienced occupancy and revenue spikes that were larger than the increases during the Cavs’ seven-game NBA Finals victory over the Golden State Warriors.

STR, a global data and analytics firm that has an office in Rocky River, provided data to Crain’s that showed hotel revenue more than doubled year-over-year for the 7,054-room Cleveland/Independence area, which encompasses downtown and goes south to Seven Hills.

On Oct. 25 and 26, when the Tribe hosted the Cubs in the first two games of the World Series, the Cleveland/Independence hotel market had revenue increases of 99.2% and 136.1%. For Games 6 and 7 on Nov. 1 and 2, the spikes were 129.4% and 130.4%, respectively. The occupancy rates for the four days had increases that ranged from 18.7% to 30.2%.

Frank McGee, the director of sales and marketing at the Renaissance Cleveland Hotel — where the Cubs’ players and staffers were rumored to have stayed (McGee said he couldn’t comment on that) — said business was booming everywhere.

“I’d venture to say that all of downtown was pretty much sold out for each one of the home games,” McGee said. “You definitely saw a nice uptick there. Really, that was the theme throughout the playoffs. It wasn’t just the World Series.”

The overall Cleveland hotel market — with a total of 23,789 available rooms — had revenue bumps ranging from 73.4% to 90.8% for the four World Series games at Progressive Field, according to STR. Occupancy increases were between 19% and 26.2%.

“Any time you have an anomaly where demand spikes — the RNC coming to town, an act of nature — you’ll definitely see a surge,” said Laurel Keller, VP of Hotel & Leisure Advisors, a Cleveland-based hospitality consulting firm.

Keller said the 2016 World Series “had the ability to have a greater impact” on the Cleveland hotel market than the most recent NBA Finals because of the distance between Cleveland and Chicago and the Cubs’ title drought. Another factor in the World Series’ favor: Progressive Field, with an attendance exceeding 38,000 for the Fall Classic, seats almost twice as many fans as Quicken Loans Arena (a capacity of 20,562).

Plus, Keller pointed out, June — when the NBA Finals are held — is a busier time for hotels than late October and early November.

“September is a great convention month,” Keller said. “In October, you see a little of that (business). In November, it falls off.”

According to STR, the revenue for the entire Cleveland market peaked at $3,158,748 for Game 7. The totals for Games 1, 2 and 6 weren’t too shabby, either — with a range of $2.89 million to $3.06 million.

The average Cleveland hotel revenue for the Cavs’ three NBA Finals home games in June was $2,451,614, with a peak of $2,592,412 for Game 3 on June 8.

“There’s already a lot of demand in the market, especially on weekends in June,” Keller said. “There was a base level of (hotel) demand (during the NBA Finals), and you didn’t have as many rooms to fill as you would on a Tuesday in late October.”

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