The Greater Cincinnati Convention and Visitors Bureau achieved a partial victory when the City Council unanimously approved a new booking policy for the Albert B. Sabin Convention Center recently. Under the new policy, effective in 2002, the number of time blocks guaranteed to public shows is reduced from ten to four, opening up more time blocks for conventions. During the first quarter, a critical period for convention business, six time blocks had been reserved for consumer shows; now that number is cut to three.
The CVB had fought to eliminate all guaranteed blocks for consumer shows, claiming they interfered with the city's ability to attract convention and tradeshow business. According to a Price Waterhouse report, the booking policy cost Cincinnati about $16 million annually in convention business. Although the victory was partial, CVB president Michael J. Wilson is pleased. "[City Council] tried to strike a balance where we thought there was a severe imbalance," Wilson says. "I think it's a very reasonable approach, which gives the [convention] center and the bureau more flexibility, and also provides guarantees to local shows."
The initial policy resulted from anti- trust litigation filed by Hart Productions, Inc., which books local consumer shows, against the CVB. The new, amended policy is the second recent decision favoring CVBs and convention centers. Last June, a Louisiana court threw out antitrust litigation filed by public show organizers Helen Brett Enterprises, Inc., ruling that the New Orleans CVB and Ernest N.
Morial Convention Center were immune from antitrust laws. That lawsuit was considered a test case, and, in fact, the Cincinnati CVB cited that decision to bolster its arguments, says Wilson.