Gables Welcomes Three Meetings Displaced By Katrina
By Claudio Mendonca
One national convention and two pharmaceutical firms’ meetings forced from New Orleans by the devastation of Hurricane Katrina have found meeting space in Coral Gables as other displaced conventions scramble to find homes here.
The National Hispanic Science Network is bringing 150 researchers today (9/15) to the organization’s fifth annual national conference at the 157-room Omni Colonnade. The group was able to make the switch Aug. 30, the day after Katrina struck.
"We have been booking a few business meetings of groups which are being redirected to Miami-Dade," said Ben Mollere, vice president of sales at the 279-room Biltmore Hotel.
Mr. Mollere has scheduled a 70-person meeting with a pharmaceutical group Sept. 27. In November, another pharmaceutical meeting will use 225 rooms already booked during a three-day period. Mr. Mollere would not disclose the companies involved.
"August and September are usually our slowest months, so we have the availability that we normally wouldn’t have in February or March," he said.
Mr. Mollere said there is a possibility of bringing from New Orleans a wedding in October with 100 people.
Other organizations from throughout the US that had scheduled meetings for New Orleans in coming months continue to look to Miami-Dade County as a possible refuge, but finding available space can be difficult.
There have been many inquiries, said Ita Moriarty, senior vice president of convention sales for the Greater Miami Convention & Visitors Bureau, but in many cases, the bureau is having to turn down groups due to lack of adequate meeting space.
"New Orleans has a huge convention center, so part of their business is just too big for us," Ms. Moriarty said.
Likewise, said Fred Shroeffell, director of sales at the Hyatt Regency downtown – which has 615 rooms, 23,000 square feet of meeting space and a 12,000-square-foot ballroom and is linked to the James L. Knight International Center and the 28,000-square-foot Miami Convention Center in same complex – numerous groups are asking for availability but there have been no "definite commitments."