|By Tom Stieghorst, South Florida Sun-Sentinel|
Knight Ridder/Tribune Business News
Oct. 23, 2004 - The visitors bureau in Fort Lauderdale said Friday it will give away space for the next two years at the Broward County Convention Center in August and September to any group willing to book 600 hotel rooms on the peak night of its event.
It was the latest sign of distress following this year's unprecedented hurricane season, which has roiled the meetings market.
The bureau also said it will cover attrition fees for such groups at key hotels during August and September to encourage convention business. Attrition is a shortfall in the number of rooms actually used for an event. Hotels contract with meeting planners for a set number of rooms, and planners owe attrition fees when the number is significantly lower.
"This is not a trivial offer," said Nicki Grossman, president of the Greater Fort Lauderdale Convention & Visitors Bureau. "This is a major incentive that we think needs to be there," she said.
Meetings typically run for several days, but attendance is highest in the middle, referred to as the peak night. To get "free rental of all floor space" at the 600,000 square foot center, the meeting would have to have 600 rooms or more reserved for peak night. This year two or three meetings of that size were held in August and September, including the U.S. Army information management conference that goes by the acronym DOIM.
Grossman said there is no set charge per square foot for leasing the convention center. It depends on seasonality, food and beverage costs generated by the event, ancillary costs and the number of room nights the event produces.
"We recognize there will be a reduction in revenue (at the convention center) in August and September of 2005 and 2006," Grossman said. The larger purpose of the center, however, is to bring business for hotels and other hospitality firms, she said.
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