Jun 1, 2021 - News

Des Moines' hot girl summer drives marketing dollars

Illustration of a cornstalk and two goldfinches silhouetted against a sun and sky in neon colors.

Illustration: Brendan Lynch/Axios

After being holed up for a year, there's some big summer hype happening in Des Moines and city leaders are banking on it too.

What's happening: Whether you're calling it "hot girl summer" or "shot girl summer" — it's clear that people are going out again — and they're bringing their dollars with them.

  • The popular Millennial/Gen Z-term coined by Megan Thee Stallion in her 2019 hit is about having fun and prioritizing yourself, regardless of gender or age. And it's being embraced as 2021's summer anthem.
  • Des Moines is leaning into this energy by committing more marketing dollars to leisure and recreation this summer.

Why it matters: It could soften losses as business travel remains on hold.

The state of play: Trina Flack, VP of sales for Catch Des Moines, says the area's hotel occupancy rates are still down 30-40% Mondays through Thursdays, when traveling professionals typically made reservations.

  • But weekends are nearing pre-pandemic levels at 70-90%.
  • "We don't have that individual business travel that's really so critical to our economy normally," Flack said. "So we're trying to supplement with additional events."

Of note: Since Iowa reopened earlier than some states with larger cities, it was easier to attract and book events that would have otherwise flown over, Flack said.

  • For example: The recent Dew Tour drew in athletes from around the world to DSM's new Lauridsen Skatepark.
  • "We would have never hosted pre-COVID," Flack said. "They would have been content in Long Beach and they would have stayed there."

Yes, but: Des Moines businesses may struggle to reap in all of the tourism dollars if they don't have the staff to operate at full capacity, Flack said.

  • And some post-pandemic inventory issues like lack of rental cars can cause bumps in the meantime.

What's next:

  • Principal Charity Classic, which starts Tuesday, expanded capacity to 10,000 people at the Wakonda Club.
  • The World Pork Expo at the Iowa State Fairgrounds is expected to draw 4,500 people, starting June 9.
  • Ironman 70.3 is expected to draw 3,000 athletes on June 20.

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