At the annual meeting of the International Association of Conference Centers, April 19-22 at International Association of Conference Centers, New Brunswick, N.J., close to 500 conference center operators heard that while business was very, very good, the demand for conference centers from the meetings segment was flattening; attrition clauses in conference center contracts could be fairer to both sides; and Ron Naples, president, Maple Mountain Hospitality, won the annual Mel Hosansky Award for Distinguished Service.

Brad Garner, director of client services/operations, Smith Travel Research, said in his “State of the Conference Center Industry” session that while 2007 was proving to be a profitable year for the conference center segment of the hospitality industry, demand by groups was flattening and would not exceed the record-breaking profits of 2006.

In a conference center hot contract issues session, Steven Rudner, Rudner Law Offices, Dallas, who exclusively represents hotels and resorts about group sales issues, including attrition, cancellation, and other meeting-related concerns, told a packed room that while most attrition clauses are based on the number of room nights, and food-and-beverage attrition is based on head counts, attrition clauses should be based on revenue generated rather than on the individual numbers.

“Negotiate for room revenue, food-and-beverage revenue on the front end,” Rudner told the conference center operators, because groups know their budgets up front. That way, if planners fall short of the per-person food-and-beverage numbers, they can upgrade their menu for the event to meet the agreed-upon revenue, and the planner doesn’t just pay out attrition shortages. Hotels and conference centers would rather not ask for an attrition check, said Rudner.

In other IACC news, Ron Naples, president, Maple Mountain Hospitality, won the annual Mel Hosansky Award for Distinguished Service. Naples has been active in the conference center industry for 20 years, during which time he held the top or senior management positions at four IACC member conference centers prior to becoming a consultant in hospitality and meeting management. He received the Award for Teaching Excellence from New York University in February 2000, and he’s an adjunct assistant professor at NYU’s Preston Robert Tisch Center for Hospitality, Tourism, and Sports Management.

Tom Bolman, executive vice president, IACC, was also honored at the meeting for his 20-year commitment to the association and the industry.

Assadang Langsub from the Spencer Leadership Conference Centre in London, Ontario, won the fourth Copper Skillet cookoff, in which top chefs from a number of companies competed.