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March 2010Conference+ Meetings World www. c- mw. net 9 REGIONAL REPORT increase of 20 per cent on the previous year. However, those figures are predicted to rise significantly, as hoteliers pour an estimated US$ 2.1bn into new developments and US$ 350m into renovation and expansion projects throughout the island. Group meetings contributed US$ 900m to the island's local economy last year, and the country will host the 51st ICCA congress in 2012. The association will be using Puerto Rico's convention centre and the new, neighbouring Sheraton Hotel. USA The US Senate Commerce Committee received over 21,000 signatures from the Keep America Meeting on- line petition in May 2009, a campaign to support the nation's meeting industry, which is responsible for 15 per cent of all travel-related spending in the US. The industry generates US$ 40bn in tax revenue and supports over one million jobs. During the first two months of 2009, the US lodging industry lost more than US$ 1bn in revenue from the cancellation of corporate meetings and events. The US Travel Association estimates 247,000 jobs were lost in the sector in 2009, despite research by Fortune 100 confirming that meetings and events provide the highest return on investment of any marketing channel. Perception concerns The 2009 Trade Show Exhibitors Association ( TSEA) Exhibit Management Survey Analysis anticipates a 30 per cent decline in corporate budgets for private events from US$ 207,600 in 2008 to $ 145,500 in 2009. The AIG effect ( the insurance company spent US$ 443,000 at the St. Regis Resort in Dana Point after accepting an US$ 85bn federal bailout) has been widespread too, with 52 per cent of respondents to one US survey stating that media reaction had influenced their companies' decisions to hold events. On the supplier side, Starwood Hotels and Resorts Worldwide reported a 40 per cent reduction in group revenue at its company operated hotels in mid- 2009, leading directly to a cull of 6,000 jobs. Las Vegas lost over US$ 20m in trips and meetings from Fortune 500 clients. The estimated non- gaming economic impact of cancellations exceeds US$ 166m. Two of Hawaii's largest meeting venues, the Hilton Hawaiian Village Beach Resort and Spa in Waikiki and the Hilton Waikoloa, lost US$ 12.4m in business due to cancelled corporate meetings. TARP In January 2009, the US government announced it was limiting the use of its Troubled Asset Relief Program ( TARP) funds for meetings and events. Companies that had received government lending were required to approve corporate meetings, events and incentive budgets to ensure that they cannot be viewed as " excessive or luxury items". The US Travel Association ( USTA), brought together meetings and hotel industry groups to create a set of guidelines for companies receiving financial support under TARP, covering conferences, special events and employee recognition programmes, to " ensure transparency and accountability". Key points in USTA's model board policy for approval of meetings, events and incentive/ recognition travel include:  The CEO shall be responsible for implementing adequate controls to assure that meetings, events and incentive and recognition travel organised by the company serve legitimate business purposes and are cost justified.  All proposed meetings, events and incentive/ recognition travel organised by the company must serve one or more specified legitimate business purposes.  Total annual expenses for meetings, events and incentive/ recognition travel shall not exceed 15 per cent of the company's total sales and marketing spend.  The process for approving meetings, events and incentive travel, and the procedures for assuring adherence to this policy, will be subject to independent audit to confirm policy adherence.  At least 90 percent of incentive programme attendees shall be other than senior executives ( as defined by applicable Treasury Department guidelines) from the host organisation. The SMERF market Falling volumes and yields from the corporate market has forced many meetings suppliers in the US to shift their focus back to the more budget- conscious SMERF: Social, Military, Education, Religious and Fraternal market. SMERF planners now have access to high-end hotels and resorts that were beyond their reach in a more buoyant market. Cities began putting out the welcome mat for SMERF groups: New York rolled out a new meetings campaign ' NYC Now', attracted by the stability of the SMERF market in which most meeting delegates pay their own way. DeWayne Woodring, CMP, CEM, executive director of the Indianapolis- based Religious Conference Management Association ( RCMA), says: " It is amazing how sales people get religion in difficult times. Usually, the religious market is recession- proof. US corporate policies Although US corporate travel managers have greater control of meetings than their European counterparts, the number of organisations consolidating transient and meetings spend is less clear. In August 2009, AirPlus International released figures showing that 85 per cent of corporate travel professionals ' touch' meetings, yet only 35 per cent said that their company enforced a meetings policy. BTN's Corporate Travel 100 research showed that 54 per cent of the largest travel spenders in the US have centrally consolidated meetings management and purchasing. Deutsche Bank went through a two- year reengineering of its US$ 150m global meetings and events programme. When asked to rank the key factors behind venue managers' pricing decisions in order of importance, the volume of unsold inventory for the dates in question comes first, followed by customer- driven factors such as existing relationships and what the client is willing to pay. Grass Roots is an international meetings, events and communications agency and the MIRis available at: www. grassrootseventcom. uk. com/ web/ guest/ meetings- industry- report

The essential worldwide exhibition for meetings and events. Frankfurt / 25- 27 May