GRAND RAPIDS, Mich. (WOOD) — Hotels in downtown Grand Rapids are preparing for ArtPrize, expecting a turnout on par with years past.

“ArtPrize is really for us a celebration of bringing people back into our hotels,” Experience Grand Rapids President & CEO Doug Small said.

Recently, downtown hotels like the Amway Grand Plaza have seen an increase in weekend visitors. Small said he’s confident downtown hotels will sell out at one point or another during ArtPrize — or at least come close.

“The soft survey that we did with hotels shows a slight uptick in rooms over (ArtPrize) dates,” Small said. “I expect to see much more of an uptick as we get into the first weekend.”

Given the uncertainty of the pandemic, Small expects there to be more last-minute bookings, opposed to travelers planning months in advance like in years past.

Since launching in 2009, ArtPrize has been known to attract artists and visitors from all over the world. This year, more are expected to be from Michigan.

“I think this year we’re probably going to be back to more of a regional draw because of the situation that we’re in,” Small said.

But to Small, it’s all the same.

“They could come from the state of Wyoming or the city of Wyoming, it’s a visitors for us,” he said.


As rooms book up ahead of ArtPrize, hotels are still scrambling to hire staff. Small said the travel industry overall has been hard hit by the labor shortage, including downtown hotels.

Experience Grand Rapids co-sponsored a job fair for the travel industry last week. Small called the turnout disappointing.

“We had 45 exhibiting companies with 1,000 jobs available. Unfortunately, we got less than 100 people show up for the job fair,” Small said.

Though short-handed, Small said hotel guests will hardly notice the difference.

“From the outside looking in, you really don’t notice it,” he said. “…They’re pros, they’ll figure a way to manage it and get through.”

Small has just one word of advice for all ArtPrize visitors: patience.

“The service is there, you’ll be fine for those coming to ArtPrize, but just show some respect and some patience,” he said.