Cut-Throat Competition to Lure Conventions Pits City Against City

With the convention industry still hobbled by the effects of the recession, and a glut of convention space across America hungering for events, cities are going to extreme lengths to attract the expected injections to their local economies.

With convention-center exhibit-hall space having expanded by 35% nationally over the past decade, and attendance having declined over the same period, the competition to fill America's vast convention centers has gotten intense, report Jennifer Levitz and Cameron McWhirter, who document how some cities are working to beat the competition.

"City convention bureaus are undercutting each other with offers of freebies and incentives, such as free banners, breaks on rent and donations to a trade organization's charity....Some convention centers have added casinos or theaters. In Nevada, the Reno-Sparks Convention and & Visitors Authority is aiming to lure bowling conventions with its sprawling bowling alley only open to convention-goers. 'We have the Taj Mahal of bowling,' said Christopher Baum, the authority's president."

Heywood Sanders, a professor of public administration at the University of Texas at San Antonio, "predicts the glut of convention space will only get worse, because a number of cities continue to push expansions," say Levitz and McWhirter. "He blames cities' hired consultants, who he said predict 'all these people are going to come and do wonderful things to your economy.'"

"But the problem is they aren't coming anymore, because there are lots of other convention centers ... that desperately want that business," he said. "So Atlanta steals from Boston, Orlando steals from Chicago and Las Vegas steals from everywhere."

Full Story: Cities Clash in Battle to Land Conventions

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