Benchmark Hospitality, a leading U.S. conference center management company, is exporting its conference center know-how to Asia, the Middle East, and South America. "The first Complete Meeting Package (CMP) meeting in the history of Thailand was held [at our property] several weeks ago," said Burt Cabanas, president and CEO of Benchmark Hospitality, in April.

The CMP rate, for which conference centers are known (includes guest rooms, meals, a personal conference planning manager, continuous refreshment breaks, meeting rooms, and audiovisual equipment) was introduced to Thailand at Benchmark's new U-Thong Inn and Executive Conference Center in Ayutthaya, at a meeting of international rice production experts. In addition to designing and building the conference center, Benchmark increased the guest rooms from 96 to 220 at U-Thong before opening the center last November.

A second conference center is under development in Thailand, and Benchmark is building a conference center from the ground up in Tokyo, Japan, scheduled to open in March 1999. Benchmark is currently considering a center in The Philippines, says Cabanas, as well as sites in Milan, Italy; Monterrey, Mexico; Bogota, Columbia; Venezuela; Dubai, United Arab Emirates; and Cairo, Egypt--all areas that have a strong corporate presence, especially U.S. corporations with foreign offices, which have become accustomed to meeting in the conference center environment.

Benchmark's push into the overseas market doesn't mean it's neglecting the home front. In fact, plans for three new U.S. centers, in Napa Valley, Calif., Ipswich, Mass. (northeast of Boston); and Charlotte, N.C are in the works. Benchmark also manages the Lansdowne Resort in Leesburg, Va.; Resort at Squaw Creek in Squaw Valley, Calif.; Chaminade Executive Conference Center, Santa Cruz, Calif.; the Northland Inn & Executive Conference Center, Minneapolis; The Forrestal at Princeton, Plainsboro, N.J.; and Bald Head Island Resort, Southport, N.C.