The 2021 Annual Meeting of the National Rifle Association will take place in Houston next year as originally scheduled, but the organization is pushing back the start of the convention from May to September.
This year’s Annual Meeting, which was scheduled to take place in Nashville back in April, was canceled because of COVID shutdowns, and the group instead held a scaled-down version of its required Meeting of Members in Missouri a few months ago. With the 2021 Annual Meeting originally scheduled for next spring, the organization said in a statement that the event was rescheduled for the fall “to help members and exhibitors make the necessary plans to attend.”
There’ll be millions more Americans who will have received the COVID-19 vaccine by next fall compared to May 2021, and the delayed start to the convention should allow for full attendance without coronavirus-imposed restrictions on crowd size. The last time the NRA came to town, it brought about 86,000 members with them, which was the highest number of attendees in the organization’s history.
2021 marks the 150th anniversary of the NRA, and the Annual Meeting will certainly draw a crowd next year with Joe Biden and Kamala Harris likely installed in the White House. Houston’s civic officials are certainly hoping for another record-setting turnout to help the city’s ailing hotel and convention economy.
With virtually no large-scale events taking place this year, hotels across the city have struggled to make up for the lost revenue.
During the second quarter of 2020, revenue per average room — the industry benchmark for success — was down 61.6% in greater Houston compared to the second quarter of 2019, according to a September report by San Antonio-based Source Strategies Inc.
The lack of hotel revenue also blasted a hole in the budget of Houston First Corp., the organization charged with promoting Houston’s travel industry.
Houston First receives the majority of its annual budget from hotel-occupancy taxes, which it collects on behalf of the city and Harris County. But with few hotel rooms being booked, that revenue stream all but dried up.
Earlier this month, Houston First informed the city council that it anticipates a $55.5 million budget deficit in 2021 as it works to revive the city’s battered convention business.
In all, Houston First reported that the pandemic forced the cancellation of 27 citywide conventions, which bring tens of thousands of participants to the Houston area each year.
According to NRA media liaison Amy Hunter, about 7,000 hotel rooms have already been reserved by NRA members for next year’s Annual Meeting, which is expected to feature 850 exhibitors over 600,000 square feet of the George R. Brown Convention Center.
With the cancelation of the 2021 SHOT Show, next year’s NRA Annual Meeting will likely be the first large-scale gathering of gun owners since the 2020 SHOT Show, which took place in January just weeks before the first COVID shutdowns were imposed. The NRA’s Great American Gun Show, which normally runs for nine days in Harrisburg, Pennsylvania, in February, has already been canceled for 2021, marking the second year in a row that the event has been axed due to COVID-19 restrictions.
Will the turmoil surrounding the NRA depress turnout at the Annual Meeting next year? I’m sure that some Second Amendment activists will stay away, but at this point, I think the larger concern is going to be the economic circumstances of its members rather than the political fights with New York Attorney General Letitia James and the ongoing litigation and infighting between current and former NRA officials, as well as outside contractors.
Of course, a lot can happen between now and September, so we’ll be keeping a close eye on any developments, including the announcement of speakers for the NRA’s Leadership Forum, which has drawn large crowds thanks to appearances by President Donald Trump and others in recent years. I’m very curious to see if the president returns to the podium in September to fire off some rhetorical shots at Biden and anti-gun Democrats, and with the event taking place in Houston, I’m also interested to see how many Texas pols like Ted Cruz, Greg Abbott, and Dan Crenshaw make an appearance.
If you’re interested in attending the NRA’s Annual Meeting, you can find out more information here, and watch this space for more updates on the 150th Annual Meeting in the months ahead.