Smaller associations that use public convention centers planmeetings at least two years out, while larger groups usuallyestablish meetings three to five years ahead. Some meeting plannersfor smaller meetings and seminars, that use large hotels instead ofpublic exhibition halls, tell that they already feelthe pinch from rising travel costs, hotel rates and a skittisheconomy. These firms are considering cutting the number ofmeetings, attendees, food and beverage costs; selecting second tiermarkets and/or limited service properties; and ending outsideevents, as hotel rates and overall travel costs rise.

However, for mammoth conventions such as the NationalAssociation of Realtors or the National Association of HomeBuilders (NAHB), planners find a foundering economy now raisesuncertainties as to what, if anything, they'll face in 2010 andbeyond. "I have to listen to so many economic indicators, and I gotto tell you, I'm flip-flopping on my own predictions,'' says Kahn."Everyone is afraid to talk recession, weak economy or worse, but Idon't think this will be a major recession.''

During the past decade there has been boom in public conventioncenter construction and expansion, creating a vast oversupply. Manyconvention bureaus and centers ended up making major concessions togroups on rental rates and other services. Kahn says those days aregone.

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