Salt Lake May Pick Up Some Katrina-displaced Conventions

Salt Lake May Pick Up Some Katrina-displaced Conventions

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SALT LAKE CITY (AP) -- The Salt Lake Convention & Visitors Bureau is hoping to attract some of the conventions that are being displaced by the damage from Hurricane Katrina.

Bureau officials confirmed Tuesday that they are in talks with organizers of several of the conventions.

"We want to make sure we receive our fair share of that displaced business, but at the same time we don't want to be predatory," said Mark White, bureau vice president for sales and marketing.

The bureau said it has worked out a deal with downtown hotel owners to donate some profits from windfall conventions to Katrina relief.

"The hotels have generously kicked in," said Mark Bennett, spokesman for the bureau.

Under the plan, the hotels would donate $5 for every additional room rented due to a convention being moved to Salt Lake City. Half of that would go to the Red Cross and the other half to the community where the convention originally was to have been held.

Most of the talks with convention officials are confidential, but one group that is looking at Salt Lake City is the Society of Exploration Geophysicists, Bennett said.

The 75th Annual SEG International Exposition is supposed to be Nov. 6-11 at Houston's George R. Brown Convention Center, which is being used for hurricane refugees.

However, Houston officials say they are confident the center will be available for the exposition.

"At this time the George R. Brown Convention Center is scheduled to be in full operation Oct. 1, 2005," convention center managers said in a letter to the SEG. "We recognize the importance of updating you concerning your November convention as soon as information from our mayor's office is available. We feel very comfortable that we will be able to accommodate your convention Nov. 6-11, 2005."

Still, with circumstances so uncertain, convention planners are in talks with Salt Lake officials about the possibility of moving the convention to Utah if Houston isn't an option.

The convention would bring about 9,000 people to Salt Lake.

"That would be a real plum," White said, adding that he's "confident we will book at least our fair share" of displaced conventions.

(Copyright 2005 by The Associated Press. All Rights Reserved.)

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