Convention industry "hunkering down, no turnaround in sight"

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One of the defects of the convention center feasibility study done by Conventions, Sports, and Leisure, International, for the City of Tulsa, is that their data for convention industry trends stopped in mid-2001, before September 11, and the related upheaval to the travel industry and the economy at large. Here's some information to fill in that gap. Convene's annual Meeting Market Survey for 2003 is on the web, and it paints a bleak picture for meeting planners. Budgets for organizing expositions and conventions are down, as are budgets for attending such events.

Corporations, though, did not cooperate, as they cut back on exhibits, attending personnel, and sponsorships. The Sept. 11, 2001, terrorist attacks and resulting travel limitations by corporations softened exhibition attendance considerably in the fourth quarter of 2001. That continued in 2002, as 57 percent of planners recorded a decrease or no change in their largest conventionís attendance. And the average number of individual exhibitors reserving space in the largest 2002 expositions was 194, down nearly 10 percent from 215.2 in last yearís survey. The size of an associationís largest exposition took a particularly hard hit. Net square footage dropped 18 percent, from 98,750 in 2001 to 80,750 in 2002. Drilling down into the numbers uncovers some important differences among associations.

Note that both those square footage numbers are smaller than the 100,000 sq ft exhibit space (not counting meeting rooms, etc.) at Tulsa's downtown Convention Center.

The article goes on to say that attendance is falling in most categories (medical continuing education being an exception -- and those meetings are almost always in resort locations). SMERF meetings (social, military, educational, religious, and fraternal organizations) saw their attendance drop by 5%. SMERF is the only category of national meeting for which a plurality of planners expressed any interest in meeting in an updated and expanded downtown Tulsa Convention Center.

It's interesting to see how dependent some of these organizations are on meeting and convention income -- 37% in the case of trade associations. It's vital to these organizations to generate a big turnout. The most sure way to get a good turnout is to have a large group of potential attendees living near the convention site or else to have a convention site that attendees really want to visit -- major tourist destinations and resorts. Facilities aren't enough to make a meeting a success.

Here's another interesting report, which says that U.S. meeting planners will only hold 7% of their events at convention centers, but 75% will be held at city, resort, and airport hotels.

About this Entry

This page contains a single entry by Michael Bates published on September 1, 2003 1:51 AM.

A half-dozen things Tulsa should be doing instead of raising taxes was the previous entry in this blog.

Another visionary proposal, ignored is the next entry in this blog.

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