L.A. Inc., The Convention and Visitors Bureau, formerly the Los Angeles Convention & Visitors Bureau, has taken a lot of heat this past year over dozens of meeting cancellations at the Los Angeles Convention Center. The city controller's office commissioned an independent audit of the bureau's practices and revealed the results in October. George Kirkland, president and CEO of the bureau, says that, foremost, he and his staff were thrilled that the audit found that “the bureau's activities are in compliance with its contract with the city.”

Alan Rothenberg, chairman of the CVB, said in a statement, “In addition, the audit points out that the Bureau has already implemented a series of reforms, including implementing new guidelines for trade missions and changes in our sales incentive programs.

“As the economies of California and the nation begin to recover,” his statement continued, “the Bureau will be well positioned to capitalize on the strengths of the city in order to attract more visitors to Los Angeles. Our primary competitors have responded to market demands for convention hotels and they are benefiting from those investments. A new convention center hotel, which the City is planning for, will measurably boost Los Angeles' capacity to compete for business.”

The proposed new 1,200-room convention center hotel was at the center of a controversy that led Kirkland to offer his resignation to the board, which the board did not accept, he says. Six or seven local hoteliers, including those from the Westin Bonaventure and other hotels near the convention center, “had differing points of view about the need for a new convention center hotel,” he explains.

Meanwhile, the new HQ hotel is still on hold as the legitimacy of raising bonds for it is mired in the courts.

Much of the audit centered around the bureau's definition of “definite bookings,” because there was no legally binding contract with the bureau that confirmed major conventions. When cancellations began happening, some 48 since 1999, the hotels holding room blocks had no legal recourse.

In summer 2001, the CVB changed the way it defined confirmed bookings and instituted a much more strongly worded and standard letter of agreement with the meeting planner. “It is not a license agreement with the convention center,” says Kirkland, but “it makes clear that the planner is agreeing that the hotel room blocks are taking those rooms out of play.