Portofino closing hurts Vicksburg Convention Center

Published 9:33 am Thursday, July 23, 2015

SUDDEN CLOSURE: Portofino Hotel, the only hotel in downtown Vicksburg, suddenly announced a seven-month closure Monday afternoon putting booked events at the Vicksburg Convention Center in jeopardy.

SUDDEN CLOSURE: Portofino Hotel, the only hotel in downtown Vicksburg, suddenly announced a seven-month closure Monday afternoon putting booked events at the Vicksburg Convention Center in jeopardy.

The recent closing of the Portofino Hotel was a blow to the Vicksburg Convention Center.

Convention center Executive Director Annette Kirklin said she was not given prior notice to the seven-month renovation closure of the only downtown hotel. The impact will be great on the convention center because many of the guests using the facility stay at the hotel for convenience.

“With this very abrupt announcement comes a lot of fixing,” Kirklin said. “On our end, we will be going to great lengths to accommodate the many conventions and meetings that were using the hotel as their host location.”

Email newsletter signup

Sign up for The Vicksburg Post's free newsletters

Check which newsletters you would like to receive
  • Vicksburg News: Sent daily at 5 am
  • Vicksburg Sports: Sent daily at 10 am
  • Vicksburg Living: Sent on 15th of each month

Julie Ford, VCC sales and marketing manager, has been working to book new hotels with event and meeting planners, some of which have threatened to cancel their events when they were informed their reservations had to be canceled.

“They’re having their hopes dashed, is what it comes down to,” Kirklin said. “We’re just trying to pick their enthusiasm back up about coming to Vicksburg because some of these events are brand new.”

In total, 33 events will have to book a new hotel over the next seven months. Each of those event planners have been informed of the closing, but right now Ford is focusing on the eight impending events. Five of the eight events scheduled in the near future have relocated their accommodations, and Ford is waiting for the others to decide. So far, no one has canceled.

“We are doing our best to make sure that they are happy with the results that we are coming up with now,” Kirklin said.

The closure not only affects events, but it also affects the lodging tax the convention center obtains from hotels. With less hotels rooms available to book, the convention center will gain less revenue from the tax.

The lodging tax this quarter was down 14 percent from last year’s total for the same period, but the revenue was still more than the projected total for this quarter, business manager Donna Gray said. Even though lodging has been on the downslide recently, it started to level off in June.

The convention center is able to offer the planners use of the motor coach to transport guests from their hotel outside of downtown to the convention center. Currently the motor coach is getting a tune up after its inaugural journey revealed minor glitches. The motor coach should be back in operation by next week.

While the third quarter did come in less than 1 percent below budget, in revenue and expenses, the center is ahead in revenue for the year by 2 percent.

“To me, budgets are always hope,” Kirklin said. “But a lot of times hopes get shattered.”

A difference of $89.88 put them short of their third quarter revenue goal. Electricity, software and HVAC repairs contributed to the loss in expected expenses. For the year, they have used 77 percent of their expense budget prior to the lodging tax being figured in.

“City insurance went up almost $20,000 from previous years, that’s a big chunk right there, then we have utilities that have gone up drastically and repairs,” Kirklin said.

Revenue from catering, concessions and liquor sales was down 13 percent, but that may have been due to an over-optimistic projection made last year.

Now the fiscal year depends on the fourth quarter, which is typically when traffic slows down.

“Right now we’re at a surplus, but it doesn’t necessarily mean that’s what’s going to happen in the last quarter,” Kirklin said. “We are steadily watching those numbers.”

Due to the graduations held in May, attendance numbers were up 62 percent. Usage days were up 52 percent with 28 events taking place on the 40-booked usage days. In April the convention center hosted 12 events, there were 10 events in May and six events took place in June.