Convention Craziness in Albuquerque

The Albuquerque Journal had a very interesting article on Monday relating to the City’s efforts to attract convention center business. The picture is not pretty, but rather than deterring proponents of a new “events center” (read convention center expansion) the folks who would benefit from more convention center business want to spend hundreds of millions of your taxpayer dollars, supposedly to attract more conventions.

But, as this study from the Brookings Institute points out, the Convention Center business nationwide is declining rapidly. This reality is actually reflected clearly in the Journal article. Says Dale Lockett of the Convention and Visitors Bureau, “How do you be a value destination when non-value destinations become value destinations? It’s a downward spiral. This seems to be a long-term loss.”

Well, duh Dale, this reduction in demand (note that this is a national, not local trend) is a clear sign that the industry is continuing to face big problems. It is not economically-viable.

Lockett goes on in the article: “Many of those competitors (other cities in the convention business) are willing to pretty much do anything to win business…each destination marketing organization has an obligation to try to lessen the impact of the recession to our own properties any way we can.” Gee, this sounds like a great industry to invest hundreds of millions of taxpayer dollars in. Would Bill Gates or Steve Jobs make such an investment? Heck no! They are looking for the business of the future, not wasting (other people’s) money on a costly, dying industry.

It is obvious that convention centers nationwide have been expensive money pits. Albuquerque need not fall into the same trap.