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Tale of Two Converntions; Las Vegas Versus Anaheim: 
Trade Groups Take Opposite Tack in Convention Plans
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By SANDI CAIN, January 2004

In today’s competitive meetings market, convention bureau sales staff often goes all out to bring business to town.

But it’s hard to say what might be the final selling point in whether they come—or go.

Take the example of two conventions in Anaheim.

The Association of Woodworking & Furnishings Suppliers in December said it would move its biennial show from Anaheim to Las Vegas in 2005.

The event, regularly held in Anaheim since 1987, brought 24,000 people to the Anaheim area last year and generated about $5.5 million in visitor dollars.

“(The move to Las Vegas) will give us more national exposure,” said Angelo Gangone, president of the Commerce-based group. “Anaheim is still seen as a regional market.”

Gangone said the change of scenery also might give the show an attendance boost, while still maintaining a West Coast presence.

“There’s more opportunity to grow the show in Las Vegas,” he said. “It’s nothing against Anaheim.”

Maybe not, but Gangone pointed to a “huge” amount of exhibit space in Las Vegas, its affordability, proximity to Orange County, entertainment options and a soon-to-debut monorail as other factors in Las Vegas’ favor.

Another factor in the move: a dispute between the trade group and Anaheim over a power outage that lasted for five hours in 2001.

“It’s always very difficult to compete with Las Vegas,” said Jim Kissinger, vice president of convention sales for the Anaheim/Orange County Visitor & Convention Bureau. “They have so much of everything.”

Maybe so, but the California Trucking Association saw its attendance dwindle in the eight years it spent in Las Vegas. That prompted the trade group to move back to Anaheim for its show in 2004 after an eight-year absence.

“We have 90,000 members who work in the Los Angeles-Long Beach port area alone,” said Kimberly Reed, director of events for the California Trucking Association. “We decided to bring the show to the truckers instead of taking the truckers to the show.”

Reed said the logistics of parking so many trucks for the event was worked out with the Disneyland Resort. “We’re selling the changes in Anaheim,” Reed said. “A lot of our members don’t know about them. We’re selling the proximity to Disney, too.”

The trucking association expects to bring about 28,000 attendees to the convention.

Convention Center Remodel

Meanwhile, in a bid to attract more business, the Anaheim Convention Center is considering some remodeling for the 1.6 million-square-foot facility.

The Anaheim Convention Center debuted its most recent expansion in 2000. Charles Ahlers, president of the Anaheim/Orange County Visitor & Convention Bureau, said it’s set to propose some changes to the space due to a “dramatic shift” in the industry.

“More people need breakout space as opposed to exhibit space,” Ahlers said.

Ideally, today’s convention center would have three square feet of exhibit space to one square foot of meeting space, he said. Anaheim’s ratio is 10-to-1.

“Our ratio is upside down,” he said. “We need 300,000 square feet of meeting space.”

Ahlers pointed to a recent meeting of doctors as an example of market trends. That group needed to schedule 1,400 breakout sessions during three days.

“We didn’t have enough space for all the sessions at the Convention Center,” he said.

Though the proximity of the Hilton Anaheim and Anaheim Marriott can solve the problem for most groups, to remain competitive the bureau is looking at ways to add more meeting space at the convention center. That would add flexibility to the center and allow two conventions to meet simultaneously and still have enough meeting and exhibit space.

Ahlers said several options are under consideration, including possible conversion of a junior ballroom or subdividing one exhibit hall. Ahlers said his staff will present recommendations to the city in the near future.
 
 

Sandi Cain is a freelance writer and contributor to the Orange County Business Journal and meetings industry publications. She specializes in hospitality, tourism and travel. Cain holds bachelor’s and master’s degrees in education from Kent State University in Ohio, where she majored in social studies. A former high school teacher, she has written for niche-market sports publications in the U.S., England and Australia and formerly worked in both the printing and high-tech industries. A Cleveland, Ohio native, Cain hasbeen a resident of Laguna Beach since the late ’70s. She enjoys travel, gardening, reading and spoiling her three cats.
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Contact:
Sandi Cain
Laguna Beach CA
949-497-2680
scainado@earthlink.net

Also See Meeting Bookers Optimistic 2004 Will Mark Rebound Despite Potential Hurdles; Attendance Boosts at Recent Conventions Have Made Orange County California Hoteliers Hopeful / Sandi Cain / January 2004
Hotels, Theme Parks in Orange County, California Start Aggressive Push for In-State Visitors During Holidays / Sandi Cain / November 2003
An Oranges to Oranges Comparison; Anaheim and Orlando Share Tourism and Meeting Destination Bent, Differ in Some Areas / Sandi Cain / August 2003
New Coastal Resorts Helped Orange County, California Post Gain in Hotel Rooms / Sandi Cain / August 2003
Orange County California Hotel Building Remains Sluggish; Bright Spot: the Burgeoning Resort Market along OC’s Pacific Coast / Sandi Cain / July 2003
Sunstone Hotel Investors LLC and Tarsadia Hotels Expanding by Going After Weaker Hotels in Key Markets / Sandi Cain / June 2003
Orange County's Travel Agencies Continue to Suffer from a Downturn in Travel / Sandi Cain / May 2003
Hoteliers Worry as War, Economy Hit Bookings; A Weak Tourism Industry Threatens to Get Weaker / Sandi Cain / April 2003
Budget Ax Threatens Orange County's Tourism Comeback / Sandi Cain / February 2003
Pacific Islandia California Inc., Owner of the 489-room Sheraton Anaheim Hotel, Files for Bankruptcy Protection; Bankruptcy Over Dispute, Not Results / Sandi Cain / February 2003
Security Detail; High-Profile Meetings Have Police on Special Alert / Sandi Cain / January 2003
New Hotels, Remodelings Spur Growth in Orange County Meeting Space Amid Slow Recovery / Sandi Cain / January 2003
Security Detail; High-Profile Meetings Have Police on Special Alert / Sandi Cain - January 2003
Tarsadia Hotels Building Residence Inns in Garden Grove, San Diego, Buys the 201-room Crowne Plaza in Las Vegas / Sandi Cain / Dec 2002
Bucking Convention - Anaheim Center Expansion Seems to Pay Off as Other Cities Struggle / Sandi Cain / Nov 2002
Ayres Breaks Ground on L.A. Hotel, Expanding Two Others / Sandi Cain / Oct 2002
Orange County California's Hotels, Convention Center Upbeat Despite New Competition and Weak Economy / Sandi Cain / Aug 2002
Ritz, Surf & Sand, Vie With Beach Resort Newcomers Along California's Orange County Coast; Almost 1,000 rooms Set to be Added / Sandi Cain / Aug 2002
Orange County California's Hotels, Convention Center Upbeat Despite New Competition and Weak Economy / Sandi Cain / Aug 2002
Montage Founder, Alan J. Fuerstman Sees Big Things for Laguna Colony Luxury Hotel, Acquired from Marriott International for $190 million / Sandi Cain / July 2002
Orange County’s $6 billion Annual Tourism Industry Shaking off the Downturn / Sandi Cain / May 2002
The Orange Riviera - New Luxury Hotels and Renovation Projects Transforming OC’s Coast / Sandi Cain / May 2001 
Orange County Hoteliers Hope for a Solid Summer Season to Regain Momentum / May 2002 / Sandi Cain
Hotel Brokers: From Sales to Consultants / Sandi Cain / Jan 2002 
Tourism Officials Focus on Security of Events and Sites as Key to Attracting Visitors / Sandi Cain / Jan 2002 
Orange County Travel Agencies Bear Brunt Last Week, Waiting For Fallout / Sandi Cain / Sept 2001 
St. Regis Monarch Beach Resort & Spa Opening Adds to Competition in South Orange County California / Sandi Cain / Aug 2001 
The Orange Riviera - New Luxury Hotels and Renovation Projects Transforming OC’s Coast / Sandi Cain / May 2001 
Ayres Hotel Group Expands, Rebrands / Sandi Cain / March 2001
Orange County’s Hoteliers Relieved as Anaheim Convention Center Expansion Boosted Occupancy and Rates During Past Year / Sandi Cain / May 2001
Indomitable Disney / Bad News Doesn’t Tarnish the Mouse; Slowing Economy Another Matter /  / Feb 2001 
Orange County Hotels Poised for Meetings Growth; Newcomers Help Bolster Total Space; Disneyland Hotel Still No. 1 / Sandi Cain / Jan 2001 


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