More New Orleans meetings cancelled

Ongoing repairs and FEMA occupancy will close Convention Center through March

By | September 15, 2005

Although New Orleans officials originally believed they could start welcoming conventioneers back to their city December 1, they have now cancelled all large conventions through March, including several scientific societies' annual meetings.

The New Orleans Convention and Visitors Bureau adjusted its deadline after the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) decided to take over the Convention Center as its headquarters through March. Conventions with 3,000 to 5,000 attendees or more generally need that space for exhibitors, according to Donna Karl, the bureau's Chicago-based vice president for client relations. In addition, she said, damage to the building won't be totally repaired until the end of December. The bureau will let smaller meetings take place in hotels starting January 1, Karl noted, and all hotels should be ready for occupancy 30 days from now.

Annual biomedical conferences that must now be rescheduled include the late-January meeting of the Society of Critical Care Medicine and the March meetings of the Orthopedic Research Society, the American Academy of Orthopaedic Surgeons, and the Society of Gynecologic Oncologists.

Two of the planned conferences would have drawn 25,000 attendees to New Orleans: 12,000 people to the American Society for Microbiology's Sept. 21-24 Interscience Conference on Antimicrobial Agents and Chemotherapy (ICAAC), and 13,000 to the American Public Health Association's (APHA) Nov. 5-9 meeting.

Other conferences affected include the 3rd International Conference on Cancer on the Internet, the mid-October conferences of the National Public Health Information Coalition and the Gerontological Society of America, the late-October Science and Technology for Chem-Bio Information Systems meeting, and–for computational biologists–the Institute of Electrical and Electronics Engineers' Fifth International Conference on Data Mining. The American Society of Hematology has also decided to move its Dec. 3-6 conference.

With only 450 attendees, the Association of Academic Physiatrists (AAP) didn't need to reschedule its March 1-4 meeting in New Orleans. However, the organization decided to do so anyway, out of concern that the quality of hotel staff will drop, according to Lynn Lawson, meeting planner for the association. "I know the people I work with [at hotels] have now moved out of the state, and they have no intention of coming back," she told The Scientist. AAP hopes to decide soon where to move its meeting, Lawson said, and she spent yesterday in Daytona, Fla., considering that city as a replacement location.

Fortunately, the extra months with no conventions will be counterbalanced by a long-term FEMA conclave, the Convention Bureau's Karl told The Scientist. From the beginning of October until the end of March, FEMA's "going to be housing all the recovery workers in our hotels and be filling up the hotels with over 20,000 room nights, which is huge for us."

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