The International Association of Conference Centers is launching a third-party facility-inspection program, IACC president Geoff Lawson announced last week at the organization's "State of the Industry" presentation in New York City. Ever since IACC was founded in 1981, membership has been based on "the honor system," Lawson said. That is, IACC executives accepted a facility management's own claims that it met IACC's 31 universal criteria for conference room design, conference and business services, and so on.

Not any more. IACC has hired Bare Associates International to inspect IACC member facilities and validate the claims. Fairfax, Va.-based Bare Associates provides property audits and inspections, employee and customer surveys, and even mystery shoppers. IACC's inspection program begins in 2004; each facility will be inspected once every four years.

Bare Associates President Michael L. Bare said that his staff will conduct full-day inspections of each property. But they won't be "mystery shoppers." Facilities will be contacted in advance and told which documents they must provide for review. Then, said Bare, "we'll walk the property, talk to planners, and use meters to validate sound and light criteria. We'll actually count seats in a meeting room." Inspectors will then tell facility management what changes, if any, must be made to bring the facility up to IACC standards.

The inspection program, Lawson said, "will help ensure the quality and integrity of the environment, provide a consistently productive experience for conferees, and enhance the results of the meetings that take place in IACC conference centers."