April 30, 2008

A survey conducted two weeks ago by the International Congress & Convention Association reveals that the global financial crisis is unlikely to cause significant damage to the international meetings industry. Among the study's key findings: Fewer than 6 percent of those polled have suffered a significant downturn in business as a result of the economy, and 60 percent reported they have felt no impact at all; 42 percent expect their firm's performance to be better in 2008 than last year; 12 percent of respondents plan to reduce their marketing budgets, but more than three-quarters of those polled will not make any such cuts. Asked what impact the current financial crisis will have on the meetings industry in general, slightly more than half believe there will be significant negative impact restricted to certain regions; more than one-third expect a significant short-term global impact, and 7 percent predict significant global impact will last longer than 18 months. More than a quarter of ICCA's 850 member organizations responded to the survey.

IT&ME, the U.S.'s largest meeting and incentive travel trade show, is launching a hosted buyer program for planners of international business travel, meetings, incentive travel and conventions, for its 2008 show, to be held in Chicago Sept. 23-25 at McCormick Place. To be considered for the program, planners must apply (applications will be available next week via the show's website, and commit to attend a minimum number of prescheduled appointments, plus a destination presentation with program sponsors. Hosted planners will receive complimentary registration and two nights' accommodations in an official show hotel; access to hospitality functions and networking events; transfers between airport, official hotels and the show, and access to the exclusive hosted buyer lounge on the exhibit floor. According to a spokesperson for IT&ME, the hosted buyer program is an expansion of the existing "scholarship program," introduced several years ago, which offered some of the same benefits. The spokesperson added that the move was made to "provide exhibitors with people they want to see."

Reed Travel Exhibitions expects to announce the site and date of its first hosted-buyer trade show in North America for the meetings and incentives market within the next several weeks, according to the British trade show firm. Though the destination has not been revealed, Reed confirmed to M&C that the show willnot be held in Miami, as other media sources have reported. Reed Travel Exhibitions also produces EIBTM in Barcelona, Spain, and GIBTM in the Middle East.

New York City will spend approximately $100 million to renovate and expand Piers 92 and 94, two of its major trade show facilities. The project will increase the total amount of available meeting space at the piers from 150,000 square feet to 355,000 square feet. Plans call for the addition of a 9,300-square-foot winter garden, a 60,000-square-foot logistics center at Pier 92 to accommodate loading and storage procedures, and three separate entrances to allow for simultaneous events. Construction will operate in phases, so as not to disturb existing trade shows. No start date has been announced.

Margit B. Weisgal has been named to the newly created position of executive director of the Trade Show Exhibitors Association, replacing Stephen Schuldenfrei, who served as the organizations president for the past three years and who will retire on May 15. Weisgal was president of Sextant Communications, an exhibition consulting firm, and received the TSEA Distinguished Service Award last year. Schuldenfrei plans to relocate to Tucson, Ariz., and said he is interested in helping the next generation learn about the industry, possibly as a college-level professor of exhibition management.

British Airways is increasing fuel surcharges for flights originating from the U.K. For tickets purchased on or after May 2, a surcharge of approximately US$50 will be added to roundtrip, short-haul flights. Long-haul flights of less than nine hours will carry a US$247 surcharge, while a fee of US$310 will apply to flights of more than nine hours. The airline expects to increase fees for other flights "by similar levels."

The City Council of Atlantic City voted unanimously on April 23 to ban smoking on the casino floors of all local casino resorts. Previously, amendments to the statewide ban of smoking in public buildings called for only 75 percent of the gaming areas to be smoke-free. Beginning Oct. 15, casino patrons will be permitted to smoke only in designated smoking lounges. The decision comes after a yearlong battle that pitted casino workers in favor of the ban against casino owners and associations.