Tradex is essentially full, leaving tourist officials to turn away groups looking to book the city-owned exhibit space.
And with the city’s hotel rooms also increasingly booked up and a dearth of convention space, officials are looking at how to meet the growing demand from tourists and businesses.
The facility’s operators expect to welcome around 450,000 people through its doors this years, Craig Nichols, the executive director of Tourism Abbotsford, which runs Tradex, told council Monday.
Tradex – located adjacent to the Abbotsford Airport – is operating at 82 per cent capacity, which is “virtually unheard of in our industry,” Nichols said. “It means Tradex is virtually sold out.”
Coun. Bruce Banman asked if the city had outgrown Tradex, whether it was time to start thinking about expanding, and if discussion had taken place regarding the next steps.
“Yes, yes and yes,” Nichols replied.
Some large shows have outgrown the site and must spend money to buy tents for outdoor display space, and Nichols said Tourism Abbotsford has been working on the business case of such an expansion.
“We just want to make sure that business plan is rock solid.”
The city’s hotel rooms have also been filling up fast. Last year’s occupancy rate was 66 per cent, up eight per cent from the previous year. And in the past month, Abbotsford’s occupancy rate is pushing 80 per cent.
Those figures have tourism officials exploring the feasibility of a new meeting and conference centre.
Nichols added that developers often begin looking to build new hotels when occupancy rates climb above 65 per cent. He said the city could use at least one more 140-room hotel. Should more convention space be built, two hotels are likely necessary, Nichols told council.
The feasibility study, Nichols said, could inform what the expansion of Tradex looks like.
Tradex opened in 1991, after being built in 100 days for $4.5 million. Originally owned by the BC Pavilion Corporation, the city took over the facility in 2002.
Officials have been talking about a possible expansion for years. In 2011, the facility’s then-director of operations, told a crowd that an expansion was being considered because Tradex was regularly turning away events.
New floor plan concepts were developed, but the expansion never came to fruition. The cost of a 100,000-square-foot expansion was pegged then at between $15 million and $20 million.
– with files from Kevin Mills
FROM 2012: Tradex expansion, sex show questioned