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The Nation's Tourism Industry Is Battling for the Meetings
 and Conventions Business Once Headed for New Orleans
By David Wethe, Fort Worth Star-Telegram, Texas
Knight Ridder/Tribune Business News

Sep. 7, 2005 - The nation's tourism industry is battling for the meetings and conventions business once headed for New Orleans, and Dallas is poised to get a big piece of the pie.

New Orleans, the country's fifth-busiest destination for meetings and conventions, has canceled events through the end of November. It's now asking other cities for help.

Several of Dallas' largest hotels, the Wyndham Anatole, the Adam's Mark and the Hyatt Regency Dallas, have already jumped in.

Meanwhile, Tarrant County hotels and convention centers are looking at availability but have not signed any deals yet.

The Dallas Convention & Visitors Bureau said it is talking with planners for about a dozen large conventions, each of which would take up 5,000 to 10,000 rooms and bring in about 10,000 to 20,000 attendees, although it doesn't expect to land them all.

Most of the meetings that are moving from New Orleans were scheduled for the next three to six months.

But some as far away as 2007 are up for grabs, said Phillip Jones, president and chief executive of the Dallas Convention & Visitors Bureau.

"I think the city of New Orleans is going to recover, but the recovery time is going to be certainly longer than anyone anticipated," he said. "The time frame is probably at least a year for the business of meetings and conventions."

The New Orleans Metropolitan Convention & Visitors Bureau sent out a distress signal Friday, asking cities to trade future meetings of displaced groups through 2009.

The request was made through an e-mail sent by the Destination Marketing Association International, the umbrella association of convention and visitors bureaus. The e-mail also included a list of 17 meetings scheduled for September. Meetings scheduled for October and November are expected to be distributed soon.

The size of the September meetings varies widely, from about 100 attendees to more than 16,000.

But at least one of the groups has canceled rather than relocate on short notice. AARP announced on its Web site that it won't hold its annual meeting of 20,000 attendees scheduled for this month.

Jeffrey Donnelly of Wachovia Capital Markets said in a report issued Tuesday that most of the group business scheduled for 2005, 2006 and part of 2007 will move out of New Orleans.

He also projected that Dallas and Atlanta would benefit the most from the relocated business.

Area tourism officials said New Orleans faces a difficult public relations job, especially after television captured hostility and damage at its convention center.

"They're going to have to replace those mental images with the new New Orleans, that New Orleans is back and it's back, bigger and better than ever," said Linda Howell DiMario, president and chief executive of the Arlington Convention & Visitors Bureau.


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Copyright (c) 2005, Fort Worth Star-Telegram, Texas

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