Springfield’s travel and tourism industry has experienced healthy growth the past few years, a trend that accelerated in early 2017 and reached unprecedented levels after Wonders of Wildlife National Museum & Aquarium opened in September.

“Wonders of Wildlife is a game changer for Springfield,” Tracy Kimberlin, president/CEO of the Convention & Visitors Bureau, said during the organization’s State of the Travel and Tourism Industry presentation Monday afternoon at the Springfield Area Chamber of Commerce. The event kicked off National Travel & Tourism Week that takes place May 6-12 in conjunction with National Economic Development Week May 7-12.

The proof is in the increases in hotel rooms booked since WOW opened, Kimberlin said. Room demand at Springfield hotels has increased about 8 percent since September while elsewhere in the the state, slight decreases were reported.

The city’s hotels, in fact, have experienced steady increases in room demand and revenue since 2012 when the recession ended, with records broken each of the last nine months of 2017. The first quarter of this year is starting off strong with record or near-record numbers recorded.

Despite the positive trends in leisure travel, Kimberlin expressed concern about the health of the city’s convention market, flat in recent years due to growing competition from cities offering newer convention facilities that are more appealing than what Springfield has available.

He also noted that some hoteliers are responding to the growth in demand by building new hotels in the city. That could soon lead to the city having more hotel rooms than it needs, resulting in less profitability for hotel owners.

“Supply and demand is a delicate balancing act when it comes to the hospitality industry,” Kimberlin said.

The CVB is a nonprofit marketing organization dedicated to promoting the Springfield area as a travel destination. For more information, call the bureau at 417-881-5300 or visit www.SpringfieldMo.org.