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BOSTON-The John B .Hynes Veterans Memorial Convention Center here is anticipating a notable drop in business from associations and groups, leading to a loss in local hotel room bookings and raising concern over the $750-million Boston Convention and Exhibition Center, which is due to open in 2003. The drop in business stems from a shortage of new hotel rooms, according to tourism officials, which could potentially impact South Boston’s new convention center.

“Groups can’t come because we can’t put together an effective room block. There certainly is some concern,” Andy Antrobus, spokesman for the Massachusetts Convention Center Authority, tells GlobeSt.com. “The indicator for us is some of the room block packages for certain years have not been filled.” According to statistics released by the Greater Boston Convention and Visitors Bureau, large group bookings, defined as over ten rooms, are off anywhere from 37% to 64% five to seven years out, as compared to previous years.

According to Antrobus, those figures do not mean that the convention center will be empty. Trade shows, which book on a shorter cycle and are smaller groups, will fill the void. “We market our wares to whichever target market is receptive at the time,” he says. “But some of the intrigue here centers on the notion that we are having trouble filling this convention center when we are building this new facility. The new center will be much larger than the Hynes and will have a very different target market.”

Antrobus also points out that the 1,120-room convention center hotel, which is being developed by Starwood Hotels & Resorts Worldwide, will open when the convention center opens. “Our board had the foresight to prepare for this eventuality,” he notes. The convention center hotel had run into financing problems but as of last month, Starwood has reportedly stated that it would build the hotel, even if it has to finance the project itself.

Other local hotel projects are struggling to be built, as financing such projects is becoming increasingly difficult amid growing concerns over a downturn in the economy. The MCCA is also pinning its hopes on Nicholas Pritzker’s Fan Pier project on South Boston’s waterfront. The Chicago-based developer has plans for two hotels there, but it is still unclear if his plans will receive city approval.

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