Baltimore Convention Center
Several mid-tier meetings
destinations are suffering disappointing numbers, with
convention and visitor bureaus in those cities under increased
pressure to generate sales.
Baltimore, for example, is experiencing
what its boosters characterize as a “trough” in upcoming group
business for 2008-2010. Indeed, bureau numbers recently revealed in
The Baltimore Sun point to more than a 70 percent decrease
in hotel room night bookings, from 254,126 in 2005 to 72,231 in
2008, and a steep drop in the number of groups booked at the city’s
convention center. According to the Baltimore Area Convention and
Visitors Association, 28 groups booked conventions at the center in
2005, compared with 10 for 2008, and nine each for 2009 and
As a result, Thomas J. Noonan, the
BACVA’s new president and chief executive officer, has spent much
of his short tenure, which began in January, defending the BACVA’s
“We have 10 bookings, plus seven
annuals that book the convention center year after year,” said
Noonan. “Let’s make all those annuals definite, and we’re at 17
conventions, not at 10. We also have five or six tentative pieces
of business. If we get half, we’re down 25 or 30 percent maybe.
It’s not two-thirds down.”
Baltimore is banking that its new
publicly financed $301 million headquarters hotel will jump-start
business, especially with associations. The 756-room Hilton is
slated for an August 2008 opening.
Meantime, in San Jose, Calif., a recent
audit of Team San Jose -- a public benefit corporation formed in
2003 to market the 425,000-square-foot San Jose McEnery Convention
Center -- also revealed disappointing numbers. For 2004-2005, Team
San Jose fell short of several economic targets, including missing
its gross revenue goals by more than $1.5 million.
Despite what turned out to be overly
rosy projections, Team San Jose officials note that they have
increased money coming to the city from conventions. “We’re very
proud of our results,” says San Jose CVB president and CEO Daniel
Fenton. “Our percentage increase in revenue is great. We originally
projected 12 or 13 percent, and we’re at 15 percent year over
Other cities likewise seek ways to
increase group visitation. In South Bend, Ind., the
200,000-square-foot Century Center in late February awarded a
management contract to Philadelphia-based Global Spectrum.
Financial incentives are based on the company’s success at
generating operating revenue at the center, which in 2006 came to a
total of $1.48 million.