October 03, 2007

According to a study conducted by the Incentive Federation, a consortium of incentive associations, U.S. companies spent $46.1 billion on incentives, $13.4 billion on travel programs and $32.7 billion on merchandise in 2006. Among other findings: A third of U.S.-based firms used either travel or merchandise incentives last year. The average budget for travel programs was $164,271; the typical budget for merchandise incentives was $119,008. Conducted in early 2007 and released last week at the Motivation Show in Chicago, the study was prepared by GfK, a marketing research organization that interviewed a total of 1,121 executives responsible for the development and budgeting of incentive travel and merchandise rewards.

Last week, the Center for Exhibition Industry Research reported that the trade show industry continued to grow during the second quarter of 2007, with year-to-date revenue climbing to $2.65 billion, up more than 11 percent compared with the first half of 2006. Attendance increased by 13.5 percent, the number of exhibitors rose 4.5 percent and net square footage increased 3 percent during the same period. "We have had two great quarters, and the trend is expected to continue through 2007," said Doug Ducate, CEIR president, in a statement.

New York Gov. Eliot Spitzer is considering yet another plan for the expansion of New York City's Jacob K. Javits Convention Center. Patrick J. Foye, co-chairman of project developer Empire State Development Corp., met early last week with the Hotel Association of New York City to propose the new design. According to the New York Times, the proposal would add 200,000 square feet of exhibition space, 100,000 square feet of meeting room space and a new ballroom, at a price tag of $3.2 billion. The new plan would cost $1.4 billion more than the design put forth by former Gov. George Pataki's administration, which, according to statements made by Spitzer, gravely underestimated construction costs and did not add sufficient exhibition space. The Spitzer administration recently proposed raising the $1.50 per night room tax that currently is put aside for the convention center expansion to $2.50 per night, in an effort to generate additional funds needed for the expansion. (New York City's hotel tax is 13.375% plus a $3.50 per room per night charge.) Major hotel executives, said the Times, are adamantly opposed to the higher tax. If efforts to raise the additional funds are unsuccessful, the only work that might be undertaken is the renovation of the original structure at a cost of $400 million. A spokesperson for the Empire State Development Corp. would not confirm the details discussed in the meeting, saying only that "design alternatives and cost options for the expansion were discussed."

The Arlington (Texas) Convention Center Development Corp. is seeking requests for proposal to expand the center and build a full-service 300-room hotel. Officials would like to add 50,000 square feet of new exhibition space and 10,000 square feet of divisible meeting rooms. The center currently offers a 48,600-square-foot column-free exhibit hall and the 30,000-square-foot Grand Hall with a 7,000-square-foot prefunction gallery and 4,000-square-foot lakeview terrace, but just 8,500 square feet of divisible breakout space. The city anticipates an increase in group interest when the new Dallas Cowboys stadium opens in town in 2009. The ACCDC expects to select a proposal and development team to present to its board of directors by April.

Meeting Professionals International is revamping its annual meeting in Europe. Previously called the Professional Education Conference - Europe, the gathering now will be known as the European Meetings and Events Conference, to be held April 18-20 in London. The EMEC will offer a dual curriculum: One will target executive meeting professionals and feature MBA-level presenters to help attendees develop advanced business skills. The other track, for early- to middle-stage professionals, will follow the structure of study courses for the Certified Meeting Professional designation. The topics of corporate responsibility and sustainability will be woven into the tracks.

The MGM Grand Detroit, the first of the city's three 400-room casino hotels to be completed, held a grand-opening ceremony yesterday. The $800 million property has 30,000 square feet of meeting space, a 20,000-square-foot spa and a Wolfgang Puck restaurant. On Nov. 1, the MotorCity Casino Hotel will welcome its first overnight guests, but the property's 67,000 square feet of meeting space, which includes a 1,200-seat theater and an 11,900-square-foot ballroom, won't be ready until early next year. The Greektown Casino Hotel, with 25,000 square feet of meeting space, will open next year.

The Ritz-Carlton, Powerscourt, County Wicklow, opened Monday in Enniskerry, Ireland. The 200-room property has 6,000 square feet of meeting space, two championship golf courses and a spa with 20 treatment rooms. The restaurant, Gordon Ramsay at Powerscourt, is run by the celebrity chef.

A $441 million redevelopment plan is being considered for Jekyll Island, Ga. The project would include a new 150,000-square-foot convention center connected to a 400-room hotel, at least two additional hotels with more than 300 rooms combined, condominiums, vacation homes and a mixed-use town center. The Jekyll Island Authority voted recently to enter into a contract with Linger Longer Communities to head up the revitalization. A spokesperson from the authority said construction could begin next summer, with some phases openings by 2011.