by Sarah J.F. Braley | March 01, 2004

The World Trade Institute

Wall Street workroom: Benchmark Hospitality's new World Trade Institute

Call it a quiet success story. While the hospitality industry has mostly hunkered down to survive this long period of travel-economy doldrums, small growth has come in the conference center segment. According to a report compiled for the International Association of Conference Centers by David Arnold and Dana Ramus of the Philadelphia-based office of PKF Consulting, these specialty meeting properties lately have been generating higher revenues and operating income than hotels, both per available room and per occupied room.
   Meanwhile, a number of new IACC-certified centers opened in 2003, with more on the way for this year and the next. And as economic woes ease, so might funding portals, allowing long-discussed projects finally to go forth.
   Member properties of the St. Louis-based IACC ( must comply with a long list of requirements, called the Universal Criteria, to be certified. These rules include strict specifications for conference-room chairs, continuous breaks set outside meeting rooms and the minimum amount of dining seats required to meet the capacity of a facility for lunch in two seatings.
   These criteria took on more potency in January, when the organization’s board moved to abolish the Universal Criteria’s grandfather clause, which exempted current members from new criteria that were put in place after they were accepted for membership.
   “Now, all members must undergo an independent inspection every four years, and they must comply with the Universal Criteria that are in effect at the time of the inspections,” says Tom Bolman, CAE, executive vice president of IACC. The inspections are being carried out by Fairfax, Va.-based Bare and Associates. One quarter of IACC members will be looked at this year; over the next four years, every property will be checked for compliance.
   Following is a roundup of new centers available now or soon to meeting planners worldwide.