20 February 2005
I've written before on the general decline of convention business, but some places seem to have it worse than others: while nationally the drop is around 16 percent, it's off 52 percent in Dallas.
What in the world is going on down there? The Fat Guy suspects it's a Laura Miller problem:
Call me a fool, but I suspect it might have to do with a frustrated Mommy in the Mayor's Office, who has banned late-night dancing, public smoking, and lap dances at strip clubs and who, if the grapevine is right (and it usually is), is now coming after "vice", for which you can read whores and poker, for her strong-mayor push in the next city election. Once upon a time, this used to be a really fun, wide-open town where adults (particularly out-of-town adults) could have a rocking good time. Now it's an uptight bunch of pricks who think another Italian purse store or French dress store or Noo Yawk god-knows-what store will keep bringing the dentists and insurance guys to town. Face it, Laura you've made the town safe for your hausfrau friends from Oak Cliff and Uptown and HP at the expense of the wahoo out-of-towners.
I'd say that TFG is no fool. One reason everyone (well, except me) wants to go to Las Vegas is that almost anything can happen in Vegas, and if it does, no big deal. Cities which hope to boost their convention traffic in an era when the whole idea of conventions is being seriously rethought will either have to find some way to emulate the Vegas model or come up with something comparably (and probably uniquely) compelling of their own. This leaves New Orleans, maybe, and who? Not New York, which has nanny issues of its own. And none of your second-tier convention cities are going to rise just because Dallas is in free fall.
Still, nobody's Convention and Visitors Bureau not even the one in Las Vegas is likely to make a "Whores and Poker!" pitch. There are going to be a lot of shiny new convention centers with a lot of empty rooms in the next few years. And semi-squeaky-clean Oklahoma City has had a lot of Laura Millers in its past: local historian Roy Stewart once quipped that "Recurrent pleas of reform and cleanup of vice... in Oklahoma City have been more easy to plot than cycles in the economy."Posted at 2:15 PM to Dyssynergy