Of 50,000 rooms that hotel managers across the city hoped to rent for the Vatican exhibit, only 3,800 reservations have been made.
"We were told you'd be sold out seven days a week, with people coming from everywhere, and that's not the case unless people are waiting until the last minute," said Cheyan Ballow, director of sales at Lubbock Inn, which has taken about 40 percent of the reservations it ex pected to take.
"Medieval Frescoes from the Vatican Museums Collection," which opens today at the Museum of Texas Tech and runs through Sept. 15, is the only place in the country to see frescoes from the Vatican Museums.
Marge Pettway, director of conventions and servicing for the city, said most events this size require from 50,000 to 100,000 hotel rooms. She said she expects more tour groups to reserve rooms later in the summer.
"We've been getting so many calls, (Friday) was so busy," Pettway said.
About 39 bus tour groups, which use about 25 hotel rooms per trip, already are scheduled.
The problem many tourists are finding is that most of the tickets for weekend tours were snapped up by Lubbock residents, Pettway said.
"We're talking people into coming during the week," she said.
Even though the Lubbock Convention and Visitors Bur eau and the hotels themselves advertised across the state and nation, most of the exhibit's tourists are coming from a 100-mile radius.
David Dean, associate director for the Museum of Texas Tech, guessed about 80 percent of the 148,000 ticketholders come from within that area.
At a Lubbock Hotel Associ ation meeting Friday, managers discussed the minimal change from normal summer activity, said Lance Misner, president of the association.
Misner, who also is general manager for Holiday Inn Hotel and Towers, said the difference between the expected hotel book ings and actual reservations does not surprise him be cause an event as large as the Vatican exhibit is new to Lubbock.
"We're hoping it will surprise us in the short term and bookings will be strong," he said.
But even if sales do not pick up, "it certainly does not hurt anything," he said.
Despite the pre-exhibit ad vertising blitz, hotels probably will not increase advertising as the summer goes on, Misner said. "I think our window of opportunity for advertising is about to end."
Tickets for the exhibition still are available. Although they are free, advance reservation is required.
The local number for tickets is 742-6808. For long distance calls, the toll-free number is (866) 803-6873.
Cristina Rodriguez 766-8742.