Even as local hotel rooms have emptied out and a string of conventions canceled to slow the spread of COVID-19, the Long Beach Convention & Visitors Bureau just got a glimmer of hope for an eventual return to normalcy.

Today, the bureau announced a contract with Teachers of English to Speakers of Other Languages for a convention in March 2025, which includes 8,000 room nights for local hotels.

“I’ve had emails that said, ‘Steve, this is a ray of sunshine I’ve needed,’” said Steve Goodling, president and CEO of the bureau. “People are looking for evidence that we’re going to get back to normal—which we are—and that business will come back to our city, which it will. There is light at the end of the tunnel.”

The economic impact of the event is close to $5 million, including nearly $240,000 in transient occupancy tax revenue—a 12% tax charged to guests of hotels and motels. The client was impressed by the residential-style networking areas at the Long Beach Convention & Entertainment Center, which allow for mini-gatherings, the bureau noted.

“To win the convention over Seattle, San Antonio and Austin was huge,” Goodling told the Post. “A major component of that was the support of a third-party representative who has been a great advocate for Long Beach for many years.”

The third-party planner, Peter Green from Washington D.C. helped convince the client that their convention was not “too large” for Long Beach, the bureau explained. Goodling said that in times like these, when all events have been canceled due to the COVID-19 pandemic, long-term relationships are essential in order for his organization to book future events.

“You can’t call people you don’t know at this juncture,” he said.

The bureau’s sales directors also got more than 60 leads this month for additional conventions, which equate to 75,000 room nights. Half of those leads are for 2020 and include 20,000 room nights. Business between the bureau and clients is being conducted via phone, texting and email amid social distancing orders.

One lead that bureau staff got this week—which it feels confident it will win—is for a 2,000-room-night convention in July. Goodling said the client was supposed to hold the event in spring but had to postpone due to the state’s mandatory cancellation of all events. The bureau expects a decision by the end of April.

Brandon Richardson is a reporter and photojournalist for the Long Beach Post and Long Beach Business Journal.