Tuesday, November 9, 2010

Extra, Extra!: Convene Newsstand

Welcome back to another edition of Extra, Extra!, wherein we round up interesting news from around the meetings industry. Here's what's news this week:

More so than many other cities, Las Vegas has had a rough time of it since the recession. But things may be looking up: According to stats from the Las Vegas Convention and Visitors Authority, convention attendance for Aug. 2010 (the most recent month for which data was available) topped out at 345,095 — a remarkable 46.3 percent rise over Aug. 2009's total. Now, one reason for this marked increase is that two major trade shows, MAGIC (75,000 attendees) and World Market Center (50,000), were held this year in August rather than their traditional September — but still: If Sept. 2010 convention attendance numbers hold up, it could mean that Las Vegas is back on a hot streak.

Get your treatments now, before they're gone: According to a story in the New York Times, "the oversize hotel spa has pretty much gone the way of limitless credit and fancy holiday parties." What's to blame? Well, the recession, of course — but also the AIG Effect. Occupancy is down at spa hotels, as are spending at the spas themselves. Thus, the International Spa Association has said that 86 percent of its members are now offering more half-hour options rather than the hour- or hour-and-a-half-long treatment sessions common in the gilded, long-gone past.

The Nashville Business Journal is reporting that Gaylord Entertainment Co. may build its own levee, at a cost of $7 to $10 million, in order to protect against future flooding, which damaged and caused the temporary shuttering of the Gaylord Opryland this past May. (The Gaylord Opryland is set to reopen this coming Monday, Nov. 15.) The Journal reporters write:
The company has been in discussions with the Army Corps of Engineers and Nashville leaders about plans for better levees to protect the city, but [Gaylord CEO Colin] Reed said those talks are going slower than Gaylord would like, and that the company may move forward with its own plan “if the broader plan is going to take a year, two years, three years.”
Meeting planners and attendees headed to Japan now have a closer airport option than Narita International, from which even by high-speed train it can take travelers more than an hour to arrive in Tokyo proper. Haneda Airport, which is closer to the city center — taking only about a half-hour to reach by taxi, or 20 minutes by train — opened a new international terminal on Oct. 21, according to CNNGo.com. However, the arrival and departure times leave a little to be desired, as planes bound for or coming from Europe and North America will only be allowed to land or take off between 10pm and 7am.

And finally, the U.S. General Services Administration — which, among other duties, sets the per diem rates for federal employees — has announced that it will install 15 "virtual meeting centers" — aka, telepresence rooms — at its 11 regional HQ offices in federal buildings around the country, as well as four additional locations in Washington, D.C. The $18 million network, which is scheduled to be online early next year, will be developed and managed by AT&T. A press release from the GSA said:
[T]he centers will be available for use by all federal agencies at a fixed hourly rate, making it easy for federal employees to conduct important face-to-face meetings without the need to travel. The centers will also be made available to stateside military families so that they can meet virtually with service members overseas.
That's obviously a great thing for military families, but what does it mean for meeting planners? Hopefully the development will merely — as many in the industry seem to believe it will — act as a handy supplement for face-to-face, and not supplant it entirely.

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