Kent County hotel revenue increased $122 million in the past 10 years

Grand Rapids, Mich. – Experience Grand Rapids (EXGR), the area’s official destination marketing organization, has announced that the end of 2019 marks 10 consecutive years of tourism growth. From 2018 to 2019 hotel room revenue increased 4.6% (226 million) and was the highest ever recorded for Kent County (Kent County Treasurer). There were also more than 112,999 additional hotel rooms occupied in 2019 compared to 2018. Over the past ten years, Grand Rapids has experienced momentous growth in business investment, evolved and diversified as a community, and undergone substantial development which has assisted with the rising tourism numbers.

"In 2009, Kent County hotel room revenue was $104 million,” said Doug Small, President and CEO of EXGR. “Fast forward 10 years and it stands at $226 million. This growth is thanks to the continuous community support, collaboration and development. We’ve also watched Grand Rapids build a ‘cool’ reputation that becomes more recognizable every year."

Craft beer helped lead the charge for Grand Rapids as a tourism destination in 2013 through the recognition of ‘Beer City USA’ by Since then, it has become an important part of the community culture as well as an economic driver. To demonstrate this, EXGR measured the impact of beer tourism originally in 2015 and again in 2019. The latest report found that the economic impact more than tripled from $12.23 million to $38.5 million since 2015. This proves that the local breweries have created an exceptional beer scene, while also staying in step with the growth of culinary tourism.

“Tourism trends for 2020 predict that culinary tourism will continue to grow,” said Janet Korn, Senior Vice President of EXGR. “We’ve found that our breweries are trendsetters as they create unique and delicious menus that make them not only popular breweries but staple restaurants. Therefore, destination marketing efforts like the 8th annual Cool Brews. Hot Eats. event during Beer Month GR and the video series Beer City Eats highlight how our breweries have elevated our food scene.”

Another trend that Grand Rapids is tuning into is live music. Live music has become a driver for tourism because visitors are traveling to experience special events like concerts. In 2018, 13% of people reported that their primary purpose for visiting Grand Rapids was to attend a special event (Longwoods International, 2018). Additionally, Grand Rapids outpaced the national trend for special events (8%) and grew 3% compared to 2017. Kent County hotels also reported in a survey last year that they’ve seen an increase in small groups coming for concerts. This growth is in part to the variety of music venues, ranging from Van Andel Arena to the new Listening Room, and music genres performing in the area.

In addition to marketing efforts, EXGR has made it a priority to assist the hospitality industry as a whole and, in turn, help the local community. In 2019, Grand Rapids Public Schools, Experience Grand Rapids, AHC Hospitality and Grand Valley State University implemented the first NAF (National Academy Foundation) Hospitality & Tourism academy. The goal of the Ottawa Hills Hospitality Academy is to introduce high school students with career options in hospitality while also diversifying the industry.

“The Ottawa Hills Hospitality Academy presented an opportunity for us to effect the hospitality workforce,” said Angela Nelson, VP of Multicultural Development of EXGR. “By educating the students of our local urban school district we can impact the future of the local industry and community.”

Looking to the future, EXGR plans to stay in step with travel trends to continue to drive leisure and convention business to the area.

"Staying up-to-date on the latest trends in tourism is important when it comes to promoting a place,” said Small. “In 2020, we expect to see interest in concepts such as culinary tourism, outdoor adventure, wellness and ‘traveling like a local’. Grand Rapids, and Michigan as a whole, continues to be recognized for food and outdoor recreation. For instance, last year Grand Rapids was named the number one food city in Michigan by Thrillist and earlier this year, Michigan was named the top destination for outdoor enthusiasts by TripSavvy. With this information in mind, our job is to work with and support our stakeholders and partners to strengthen the destination while also sharing the story of the cool things to do in Grand Rapids.”

# # #

About Experience Grand Rapids

Established in 1927, Experience Grand Rapids (EXGR), the areas’ official destination marketing organization, strengthens the region’s economic vitality and quality of life by marketing Grand Rapids/Kent County as a preferred visitor destination.