To mark Hawaii’s 50th anniversary of statehood, the Hawai‘i Convention Center is offering meeting planners quite a deal. Groups that book meetings at the Hawai‘i Convention Center by December 31, 2009, for 2011, 2012, 2016, or 2017 get 50 percent off the convention center rental fee, 50 roundtrip air tickets, $50,000 in attendance marketing support, and $50,000 in hotel credit.

The Hawai‘i 50th Promotion was introduced at the Professional Convention Management Association’s annual conference in New Orleans, January 11–14, to a very funny video that was a takeoff on the opening credits of the show, “Hawaii Five-0.” With the memorable theme song playing in the background, members of the Hawai‘i Convention Center staff provided the details of the package as they were introduced like the characters in “Hawaii Five-0.” At the end, HCC General Manager Joe Davis said, “Book ’em PCMA,” playing off the famous Hawaii Five-0 catch phrase, “Book ’em Danno.”

Molecular Rearrangement in New Orleans

The host city for the PCMA convention, New Orleans, has its own promotion going on. For meetings booked between now and March 31, the destination is offering an “Extraordinary Experiences” package, which offers free space at the convention center and other discounts during certain months. It applies to groups that book over 1,000 room nights on peak night.

Speaking at a press conference during the convention, Stephen Perry, president and CEO of the New Orleans Metropolitan Convention and Visitors Bureau, said the city has put “the K-word” [Katrina] behind it. “The city is in its best condition in 25 years,” said Perry, citing the fact that there are 100 more restaurants in the city than there were before Katrina, plus new hotels, and spiffed up infrastructure.

Meetings bookings are up 9.5 percent in 2009 over 2008, said Perry. “Sometimes you wonder if you need a visa to visit here, because you just know it’s different than anywhere else,” said Perry. “Your molecules rearrange a little bit when you come to New Orleans.”

Good Sign for the Economy?

PCMA keynote speaker Jeremy Siegel—author, economist, and professor of finance at The Wharton School of the University of Pennsylvania—gave attendees at the PCMA convention some hope for a better-than-expected year in 2009. Siegel cited statistics that show that the economy and markets are not the worst since the Depression—they are not even as bad as the recession of the late 1970s. Stocks have risen an average of 6.6 percent per year since 1802, said Siegel, the author of Stocks for the Long Run. In 2008, the stock market was 34 percent below the trend line, the fifth- largest gap ever and the largest since 1981 when it was 39 percent below the trend line. In each of the four years where the gap was larger, the market rose the next year.

Additionally, said Siegel, the Obama administration is putting in place all the right policies, and he believes the stock market and the economy as a whole will trend upward in the second half of 2009. “You’ll be surprised by the upside,” he said.