- The Washington Times - Sunday, December 25, 2005

The Washington Convention Center’s 2006 calendar has fewer national conventions than it did in 2005.

The Convention Center, which opened in March 2003, is slated to host 38 conventions next year, down from 42 in 2005. Nearly all convention business is booked at least a year in advance.

The conventions are expected to bring 351,000 people to town and fill 451,117 hotel room nights. Delegates are projected to spend $368 million in the city, down from $426 million in 2005.

This year, during which convention business more than doubled from the 21 conventions in 2004, was too robust to beat, said Victoria Isley, spokeswoman for the Washington, DC Convention and Tourism Corp.

“2005 was by far one of the strongest years we’ve ever had in visitation and hotel occupancy overall,” Ms. Isley said.

Business peaked in 2005 with the presidential inauguration and the 30,000-person conference of the American Academy of Orthopedic Surgeons in February — the District’s largest convention to date.

The year closed with last weekend’s Interscience Conference on Antimicrobial Agents and Chemotherapy, a 12,000-person event that came to Washington after its September dates in New Orleans were canceled in the wake ofHurricane Katrina.

The group also attributes the 2006 decline to conventions requiring longer move-in and move-out time, such as the Association of Perioperative Registered Nurses’ seven days of move time, more than the typical four to six. The groups pay for moving days.

“So while there are not as many meetings booked into the space, more dates are taken up for the behind-the-scenes work to make the meeting possible,” Ms. Isley said.

The center has 67 additional events, including public expos such as the Washington Auto Show next month, on its calendar for 2006, down from the 135 it held in 2005.

Although conventions are nearly always booked a year or more in advance, other events, such as corporate meetings, are booked within a shorter time frame.

“As we progress through 2006, there will be other bookings that fill in the other spaces. But there won’t be many more conventions,” said Theresa DuBois, spokeswoman for the Convention Center.

In other news …

• Glory Days Grill and Maggie Moo’s ice cream shop are slated to open next year at the Frederick Shopping Center, owned by JBG Rosenfeld Retail.

Glory Days, an American cuisine restaurant and bar, and Maggie Moo’s, which originated in Columbia, Md., are the first tenants to lease space — 6,000 and 1,500 square feet, respectively — in the new building under construction in the parking lot of the shopping center.

• Winter travel this year is expected to grow 2 percent over last winter, defined as December to February, according to the Travel Industry Association of America.

Americans are expected to take 251 million trips during the winter months. Leisure travel is expected to rise 2.4 percent, while business travel is expected to rise 1 percent.

The group attributed the rise to travelers’ being more confident about the economy this winter, after a fall travel season in which people stayed home because of high fuel costs.

Retail & Hospitality runs Mondays. Call 202/636-4836 or e-mail jhaberkorn@washingtontimes.com.

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