Major conventions in public centers won’t feel a financial pinch immediately as the economy tumbles and hotel room rates soar, but analysts and major associations may reconsider the scale and scope of their large meetings for 2009 and beyond beginning the 3Q and 4Q this year. “We may see some impact of higher costs in 2009, but we won’t know for sure until this fall, when we’ll start to see what registrations are, and if conference and convention (groups) begin talking cutbacks,” said Richard Kahn with Hospitality Market & Sales Associates International in McLean, VA.

Smaller associations that use public convention centers plan meetings at least two years out, while larger groups usually establish meetings three to five years ahead. Some meeting planners for smaller meetings and seminars, that use large hotels instead of public exhibition halls, tell that they already feel the pinch from rising travel costs, hotel rates and a skittish economy. These firms are considering cutting the number of meetings, attendees, food and beverage costs; selecting second tier markets and/or limited service properties; and ending outside events, as hotel rates and overall travel costs rise.

However, for mammoth conventions such as the National Association of Realtors or the National Association of Home Builders (NAHB), planners find a foundering economy now raises uncertainties as to what, if anything, they’ll face in 2010 and beyond. “I have to listen to so many economic indicators, and I got to tell you, I’m flip-flopping on my own predictions,” says Kahn. “Everyone is afraid to talk recession, weak economy or worse, but I don’t think this will be a major recession.”

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