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Displaced New Orleans conventions could end up in Columbus

Because of Hurricane Katrina and the evacuation of New Orleans event planners have to rebook hundreds of conventions scheduled for the crescent city.

Some of those meetings could end up here in Columbus.

New Orleans is one of the country's top five convention destinations. But like its streets, New Orleans convention centers and hotel meeting rooms will be empty for a while. The New Orleans officials have cancelled some two hundred major conventions scheduled through next March.

That means those groups and thousands of visitors must find another place to meet. Officials with the Columbus Convention and Visitors Bureau say they are talking with about a half dozen groups about moving their meeting to central Ohio.

Groups and other cities are moving fast. Hewlett Packard moved its tech convention to Orlando. The American public health association has already switched to Philadelphia.

Joe Marinelli, vice president of sales for the Columbus Convention and Visitors Bureau admits some conventions are simply too large for Columbus. But he says other groups would fit nicely.

Convention bureaus speak carefully when describing their efforts to attract the New Orleans business. But attracting a displaced meeting can bring big dollars. Philadelphia's economy stands to reap $28 million from the health convention.

Marinelli says he's never seen such a scramble in the convention business. He says the only thing similar was what happened during the fall of fall of 2001 when many conventions decided to move their meetings away from New York following the 9-11 terrorist attacks.