IACVB'S INTERNET SPIN-OFF: DOWN BUT NOT OUT

The bad news in the tech stock markets has forced at least one meetings industry technology startup to rethink its business plan. OfficialTravelInformation.com, a for-profit organization spun off by the International Association of Convention and Visitor Bureaus last summer as an electronic front door to more than 1,000 convention and visitor bureaus, has dissolved its technology partner relationships and lost its CEO and only staff member, William Hanbury.

Barbara Brady, director of marketing and communications at the IACVB, said that Hanbury, who left his post as president and CEO of the Milwaukee Convention and Visitor Bureau in December to head OTIC, stepped down as OTIC's CEO at the end of February. (Hanbury has taken a position as president and CEO of the new Washington, D.C., Convention & Tourism Corp.)

Seven technology companies, including StarCite, Cvent, and Passkey, major technology players in the meetings arena, had initally agreed to invest in OTIC, share revenues, and offer applications at a reduced cost to the IACVB bureaus through resales efforts. When another major technology partner, Across Media Network of Golden, Colo., backed out in late January, the others soon followed.

Brady says, “We're going back to the drawing board to pinpoint services to offer to meeting planners and consumers from the site. … Then we'll go out to the dot-com industry as a whole and look for partners who can offer those services. But those partners will not be asked to invest in us. Eventually we hope to offer a way to help our member bureaus track visitors to the site. Profiling of visitors will be key.”

Strong Foundation

In other news, the IACVB Foundation announced the launch of its first capital campaign, The Destination Ahead. The campaign will raise funds primarily for research and education in the meetings and travel industry.

John A. Marks, president and CEO of the San Francisco CVB and campaign chairman, stunned attendees at the Foundation's annual dinner in February by announcing more than $1.4 million in pledges already on the books. Among them, the J. Willard and Alice S. Marriott Foundation has made a pledge of $250,000, and the American Society of Association Executives has pledged $100,000.