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Convention Tension II

The convention industry this month fought back against a research brief that painted a dismal forecast for convention business with its own Center for Exhibition Industry Research white paper, tackling the critique point by point. On Monday, the Convention Industry Council publicly applauded CEIR, saying, “We feel strongly that the factual data included in this paper is critical to understanding the meetings, conventions and exhibitions industry as a whole.”

In “Space Available … The Rest of the Story,” Chicago-based CEIR refutes the contentions raised in a report from the highly regarded Brookings Institution, released in January. The Brookings study claimed that while second- and even third-tier cities in the U.S. race to spend public funds on convention centers, exhibition attendance has been hobbled by factors such as travel hassles in the wake of 9/11, corporate mergers and technological advances that make in-face meetings less important. As a result, the Brookings study said, even convention powerhouse cities such as Las Vegas and Orlando, Fla., can barely break even.

The CEIR report comes out swinging against these contentions, saying that exhibition attendance from 2000 through 2003 dipped only slightly, and the number of exhibitions up to 2000 had increased. The CEIR report blames extraordinary events such as the SARS outbreak, 9/11 and dot-com bust for suppressing industry growth from 2000 through 2003. Also, the CEIR report says the Brookings study misunderstands the value of spending public funds on convention centers, which, CEIR says, bring in such strong tourism revenue that they should be regarded as valuable loss leaders.

To see the CEIR paper, visit

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