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Some Conventions Outgrowing Palm Springs'
 127 hotels and 6,256 rooms

By Kimberly Pierceall, The Press-Enterprise, Riverside, Calif.McClatchy-Tribune Business News

Oct. 10, 2006 - The International Council of Shopping Centers, a large group that had been meeting and spending annually in Palm Springs as recently as Oct. 3, will take its nearly 6,000 convention-goers to San Diego next year.

Keeping and attracting conventions is highly competitive and hinges on conveniences such as airport proximity, entertainment options and available hotels, hospitality-industry officials say.

For the retailing council, the lack of hotels in Palm Springs became a deal-breaker. Palm Springs has 127 hotel s with 6,256 rooms -- not enough for the retailers, developers and city officials who attended this year's regional retailers conference. The group is moving its fall meeting to the San Diego Convention Center and the city's 8,000 hotel rooms downtown.

The decision had little to do with Palm Springs' convention center, according to officials. The city spent $34 million last year to renovate and double the center's size to 265,000 square feet, including 120,000 square feet of exposition space.

"The convention center is plenty big for ICSC," said City Manager David Ready.

Lauren Landow, the council's meeting planner, said attendance at the event outdid previous years' and outgrew Palm Springs hotels.

"We needed a lot more rooms than we were able to get this year," Landow said. Of the city's 127 hotels, 95 have less than 50 rooms.

Palm Springs Finance Director Craig Graves estimated the three-day conference brings in at least $50,000 in hotel and sales taxes. Convention Center General Manager Jim Dunn said the retailing convention-goers likely spend more than $1 million on hotels, food and entertainment based on his more conservative formula that doesn't include every Palm Springs hotel and estimates $255 is spent per night on hotel rooms.

Aftab Dada, general manager of the 270-room Hilton Palm Springs, said booking large conventions has remained a challenge, heightened since the 475-room Riviera and 255-room Ramada Inn & Conference Center closed for extensive renovations.

That's why he and other hoteliers support the proposed Hard Rock Hotel and Starwood properties currently in negotiations with the city of Palm Springs, despite the prospect that more hotel rooms may mean a glut of vacant rooms on summer weekdays, he said.

"If we are able to secure somewhere between 10 to 15 (additional) citywide conventions, that would be a plus," Dada said.

The city's primary reason for expanding the convention center will arrive Nov. 9 when 12,000 members of the Aircraft Owners and Pilots Association are expected in Palm Springs for the group's annual expo.

The group's block of hotel rooms are already sold out , according to the association's Web site.

"They're the ones that indicated if we did not expand they would not be able to come back," Ready said.

HOTELS ROOMS: DEMAND OUTGROWS SUPPLY

The International Council of Shopping Centers regional conference, held Oct. 3 to 5 at the Palm Springs Convention Center, is moving to San Diego next year because of a lack of hotel rooms for the convention's 6,000 attendees.

--San Diego Convention Center

Hotel rooms in downtown: 8,000 (another 2,000 to 3,000 are planned)

Exhibit hall space: 525,701 square feet

--Palm Springs Convention Center

Hotel rooms in the city: 6,256

Exhibit hall space: 120,000 square feet

Source: San Diego Convention Center and Palm Springs Finance Director

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Copyright (c) 2006, The Press-Enterprise, Riverside, Calif.

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