Marge Pettway, director of sales for the Lubbock Convention & Visitors Bureau, set the story straight about the demand for hotel rooms when the Vatican exhibit is visiting Lubbock.
One source at the Vatican office had told me that hotel rooms were almost filled "from here to Amarillo."
Pettway replied, "We still have plenty of hotel rooms here in Lubbock. We'll be able to accommodate all visitors in Lubbock. ... I do get calls every day from people asking about the exhibit and what we have available. The calls keep coming. The phone keeps ringing. But I still doubt that all the city's rooms will be used.
"There are 35,000 hotel rooms in Lubbock."
To date, 15,175 "room nights" are confirmed for those visiting Lubbock to see the exhibit. A room night is one hotel room being used for one night. There is no designation whether room nights refer to one, two, three or four people.
"I'm the one making their reservations for (Vatican exhibit) tickets," said Pettway. "We have had quite a few churches making reservations, and also quite a few bus companies for churches. ... The majority are one-night stays."
She has taken many reservations from visitors from Austin, Dallas and Albuquerque, N.M. Pettway said, "Oklahoma, believe it or not, has been our biggest market so far."
She has not handled reservations for anyone outside the Southwest, or thus outside the country.
"I was expecting a lot more," she said. "At this point, I'll be happy if we wind up with 20,000 room nights. Which would be good for an event like this, right?"
Her primary interest is getting out the news that rooms are readily available this summer in Lubbock. Room nights, after all, equate to dollars spent in Lubbock.
"People hear that 125,000 people already have made reservations to come here for to see the Vatican exhibit," said Pettway, "and they assume that there must not be a hotel room for miles.
"What they don't understand is 85 percent of those reservations probably have been made by people right here in Lubbock."
The Belo Corp. (owner of several major Texas newspapers and television stations) recently sent a crew to Rome to report on the exhibit headed to Lubbock.
National Public Radio also sent a representative.
On a regional note, Bob Phillips, of television's syndicated "Texas Country Reporter," will devote a full show to coming exhibit.
Be assured that dignitaries from Rome and art scholars worldwide will discover Lubbock's charm this summer. The frescoes to be exhibited, never before revealed, can be seen only in Lubbock. They have historical importance.
And Pettway has hotel rooms. As many as you need.