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Meetings Stigma Results in Dramatic Fall Off in Performance
for North American Conference Centers

Colliers PKF Consulting USA Report


July 15, 2010, Philadelphia, PA – All segments of the lodging industry struggled in 2009.  However, the combined impact of the economic recession and the demonizing of corporate meetings, resulted in an even more dramatic fall off in performance for North American conference centers.

According to the recently released Trends® in the Conference Center Industry report prepared by Colliers PKF Consulting USA, the average center in the survey sample reported a decline in net operating income of 43.5 percent in 2009.  This compares to an average hotel income decline of 35.4 percent for the nation as a whole.

“During economic recessions it is not uncommon to see associations and corporations cut their meetings budget,” said Dave Arnold, CEO East, Colliers PKF Consulting USA.  “However, never before have we seen the stigma attached to organizations that attempted to hold valuable training and planning conferences.  With the average conference center occupancy level falling below 50 percent, the negative impact is obvious.”

Revenue Down

Since the majority of conference center guests stay as part of a package plan, total conference center revenue is typically measured on a dollar-per-occupied-room basis (POR).  In 2009, the centers in the Trends® survey sample reported a 9.2 percent decline in total revenue POR.  Executive and resort conference centers, the two property types most dependent on business organizations as the source for their meetings, suffered the greatest declines in total revenue POR.  On the other hand, total revenue POR at College/University centers declined just 2.4 percent.  This shows the relative stability of educational institutions during the economic recession.

“In 2008, conference demand accounted for 72.2 percent of the rooms occupied at the centers in our survey.  In 2009, this ratio dropped to 63.9 percent, meaning that conference centers relied on transient business to fill over one-third of its rooms last year,” Arnold observed.

To combat the deterioration in conference demand, centers turned to local organizations for business.  Local based conference attendees increased 2.4 percent in 2009.  Conversely, guests attending conferences of a national scope declined 1.9 percent.  The greater dependence on locally based business contributed to the decline in rooms occupied.

Expense Control

Like all hotel managers, conference center operators have historically responded to declines in revenue by cutting costs.  Such was the case in 2009.  On average, undistributed operating expenses declined 10.4 percent during the year.  This is comparable to the cost savings achieved at comparable transient hotels.

“Because of the high level of service offered by conference centers, labor related expenditures are the greatest operating expense.  Therefore, it is not surprising that salaries and benefits were cut in 2009 in an effort to control costs,” Arnold said.  On average, base salaries were reduced by 7.3 percent in 2009.  Given the fall off in conference center revenues and profits it is not surprising that incentive pay declined by an average of 65.1 percent as well.

Despite management’s best efforts to control costs, the average center in the Trends® survey reported a 43.5 percent decline in the bottom-line in 2009.  Resort centers suffered the most (-55.1%), while corporate centers’ profits fell less precipitously (-33.5%).

Looking Towards 2010

Consistent with historical recovery patterns, conference center managers expect occupancy levels to rise, but room and package rates to lag.  On average, the managers in the survey budgeted for a 4.8 percent increase in occupancy in 2010.  On the other hand, their expectations for CMP rate movement are a minimal increase of just 0.5 percent.  “It is still a buyers market in the short term.  This is good news for meeting planners, but still presents challenges for property owners and operators,” Arnold concludes.

The 2010 Trends® in the Conference Center Industry report provides conference center statistics and financial profiles of the industry.  In addition, it presents information on facilities offered, package pricing and occupancy statistics, source of meetings, marketing tactics, and human resources.  Data is presented for Executive, Corporate, Resort, and College/University centers and is a standard reference resource for conference center owner and managers, as well as meeting and convention planners.

Copies of the 2010 Trends® in the Conference Center Industry report are available for purchase and immediate download at, or by calling 866-842-8754.


Headquartered in San Francisco, Colliers PKF Consulting USA ( is an advisory and real estate firm specializing in the hospitality industry.  Colliers PKF Consulting USA is owned by FirstService Corporation and is a subsidiary of Colliers International.  The firm operates three companies: Colliers PKF Consulting USA, Colliers PKF Hospitality Research, Colliers International Hotels.  The firm has offices in New York, Boston, Indianapolis, Chicago, Philadelphia, Washington DC, Atlanta, Houston, Dallas, Los Angeles, Bozeman, Miami, Portland, Seattle, Sacramento, and San Francisco.

Colliers PKF Consulting USA offers hotel appraisal and hotel valuation services, hotel market studies, hospitality litigation support, and hotel consulting services. Colliers International Hotels offers hotel brokerage and hotel transaction services. Colliers PKF Hospitality Research produces Hotel Horizons®, an econometrically based hotel forecast, BenchmarkerSM, a customized comparative hotel benchmark report, and Annual Trends®, a historical hotel financial publication, as well as hotel research and hotel analysis services utilizing their hotel statistics and hotel data which date back to 1936.


Colliers International is a global leader in real estate services with more than 15,000 professionals operating out of 480 offices in 61 countries.  As a subsidiary of FirstService Corporation (NASDAQ: FSRV; TSX: FSV and FSV.PR.U), Colliers offers the stability of a strong financial partner and significant local ownership providing clients with accountability and enterprising real estate solutions.  Colliers provides a full range of services to real estate users, owners and investors worldwide including: global corporate solutions; sales and lease brokerage; property and asset management; project management; hotel investment sales and consulting; property valuation and appraisal services; mortgage banking and insightful research.  The Lipsey Company and National 

Real Estate Investor magazine ranked Colliers International as the world’s number two commercial real estate brand.


Dave Arnold, CEO East
Colliers – PKF Consulting USA
Tel: 215 563 5300, ext 32

Also See: Trends in the Conference Center Industry; New Supply of Conference Centers Greatly Restricted / Dave Arnold / December 2008
ACC Summit Explores Evolving Trends, Best Practices, and Strategies Affecting the Meeting Experience of the Future / November 2008

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