by Terence Baker | October 01, 2005

New Orelans CVB at Affordable Meetings

New Orleans’ CVB
kept the faith at the
Hospitality Sales &
Marketing Association’s
Affordable Meetings show
last month in Washington, D.C.

The announcement last month by the New Orleans Metropolitan Convention & Visitors Bureau that all citywide conventions were canceled at least through March 31, 2006, left more than 100 convention groups scrambling to relocate. That many have since found alternate sites is a testament to planners’ resourcefulness in the wake of a storm season that has crippled the Gulf Coast. 
    “Many planners have had to move whole events and arrange room blocks in already crowded markets,” noted Tom Ackert, executive director of the Orange County Convention Center in Orlando.
    Indeed, Orlando as well as cities such as Boston, Denver, Las Vegas, Orlando, and Washington, D.C., are filling the hole left by the now inoperable Ernest N. Morial Convention Center, which prior to Hurricane Katrina offered fully 1.1 million square feet of exhibit space.
    Among the groups that relocated from New Orleans:
    " HP Technology Forum (with an expected 5,500 attendees), rescheduled for Oct. 17-20 in Orlando;
    " American Society of Anesthesiologists (16,000), Oct. 22-26, San Diego;
    " National Business Aviation Association (30,000), Nov. 9-11, Orlando;
    " National Association of Convenience Stores (23,000), Nov. 15-18, Las Vegas; and
    " American Public Health Association (14,000), Dec. 10-14, Philadelphia.
   At least two events set for New Orleans in coming months the Bethesda, Md.-based National Electrical Contractors Association show and the Fairfax, Va.-based Specialty Graphics Imaging Association convention announced outright cancellation due to Katrina.
    Meanwhile, the Big Easy continues to dig out from the disaster. The New Orleans Convention & Visitors Bureau reported that while the Morial Center sustained damage to halls A and B and its roof, an analysis of structural issues was positive and repairs were proceeding ahead of schedule.
    As of mid-September, 127 of the 203 hotels in New Orleans remained closed, according to Lodging Econometrics, a consulting firm based in Portsmouth, N.H. At least one property, the Hyatt Regency New Orleans, announced it would be shuttered through the end of 2006.
    Among other meeting hotels, the Hyatt, Marriott, Sheraton and W hotels all had full power restored by mid-September, but at press time they remained largely closed to all but emergency workers.