by Brendan M. Lynch | September 01, 2004
Barton HackerThe Greater Akron Lodging Council, claiming dissatisfaction with operations at Ohio’s Akron/Summit Convention and Visitors Bureau, intends to boycott all group business referred from the bureau beginning Sept. 1.
    Susan HamoThe boycott comes after area hotels witnessed a 31 percent decline in convention business from 2000 to 2003.
    “We’ve heard comments that the hotel community is biting its nose to spite its face. But this notion of a boycott was raised after two years of attempts to get change at the bureau,” said Barton Hacker (above, right), staff director of the GALC. “We told them there was a lack of performance measures, accountability and communication.”
    Bureau leaders see the issue in a different light. “I think the boycott is in complete disrespect of our clients,” said Gregory R. Bean, chairman of the ASCVB board of trustees. “The whole thing is ridiculous and without merit. And it smears the reputation of the hospitality industry in Summit County a reputation that has been greatly enhanced by the efforts of this bureau.”
    Susan Hamo (above, left), president of the Akron/Summit CVB since 1993, likewise rejects Hacker’s claims. “We always listen to the concerns and comments brought to us by our hospitality partners,” Hamo said. “We have continued to encourage open dialogue through committee meetings and face-to-face meetings with hoteliers and hospitality partners. We would have been in a better position to head off the potential boycott if we had known about it prior to it being announced in the local newspaper.”
    Members of the lodging group want the ASCVB to adhere strictly to the performance measurements of the International Association of Convention and Visitor Bureaus. Additionally, the hotel group demands the ouster of Hamo and Bean. 
    “Things just haven’t happened the way the hotels felt they should go,” said GALC supporter Tom Finley, general manger of the Radisson City Centre in downtown Akron. “And the bureau’s responses to hotels’ good questions have been vague or nonexistent.”
    The boycott, which the council says will focus on the RFP process, might entangle meeting planners in a local tug-of-war. “When the bureau asks hotels for room blocks for groups they’re trying to book, we’re going to tell them, ‘We don’t have anything for you,’” said Hacker. “We want groups to deal directly with the hotels.”
    In late August, M&C learned the bureau planned to reject a last-minute, conditional mediation offer from GALC an offer deemed “totally unreasonable” by one ASCVB board member.
    Furthermore, the bureau asserts it will not be hampered by the boycott. “Many local hotels have assured us that they will not be honoring any boycott,” said Hamo. “We are business-as-usual in the Akron and Summit County area.”