Corporations cancel events at Moscone Center


Surprisingly, it's been a record breaking year for the Moscone Center, but the recent string of success may be coming to an end. Two major corporations have cancelled their conventions in 2009 and leaders in the city are hoping it's not the first of many more cancellations to come.

The Moscone Center will be a car lover's dream for the next week as the International Auto Show opens its doors. This year, conventions like this one, filled up close to a million hotel rooms -- an all time high. But in 2009, some corporations are putting the brakes on their events. Net apps and Cisco have cancelled their conventions creating a lot of empty hotel rooms.

"Cisco was going to be about 42,000 hotel room nights. Network Appliance was another 7,000 or 8,000 room nights. So between the two of them about 50,000 total room nights," said Leonard Hoops, with the San Francisco Convention and Visitors Bureau.

The San Francisco Convention and Visitors Bureau believe the economic impact of the cancellations is between $60 and $70 million. Cisco cancelled its global sales meeting to help out its bottom line. Executives at Net App, recently known as Network Applications, says customers are cutting their corporate travel budgets. The San Francisco Marriot is also being impacted by corporate cancellations at its onsite convention center.

"We have experienced a couple of corporate cancellations that will definitely impact us next year. However, for the most part, San Francisco is a destination that is holding its own," said Tamra Howes, from the San Francisco Marriott.

The reason why the bottom may not fall out of the convention business is the majority of the groups booking at the Moscone Center and Marriott are associations, like medical and trade groups, not corporations.

Many involved believe the economic downturn may cause lower attendance at the association events, but cancellations are not likely. However, if hotel rooms are not filled to normal, neither are the city's coffers.

"Revenues generally we're watching them. We're very concerned about the direction of things. Right now we're holding steady but we're really going to have to be mindful," said Bevan Dufty, a San Francisco supervisor.

Supervisor Dufty says the Visitor's Bureau is launching a new ad campaign after Thanksgiving, trying to get people from the Central Valley and surrounding Bay Area cities to come to San Francisco to shop and stay in the hotels. He hopes this will help soften the blow of the convention cancellations.

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