Wacky Conventions Stuff County Coffers

by ARLnow.com April 21, 2011 at 12:12 pm 3,369 19 Comments

In January, the National Mastitis Council brought its annual meeting to Arlington. Approximately 400 people from around the country and around the world gathered for four days and three nights at the Hyatt Regency Crystal City to discuss the latest advances in improving milk quality and maintaining the health of cow udders.

The total estimated economic impact for local businesses: $400,000. Total estimated hotel tax revenue: $11,250.

Each year, dozens of such specialized industry events quietly come to Arlington, spend bundles of money and leave without most residents even knowing they were here. All told — while there’s no official accounting of it — there are likely hundreds of meetings, conventions, tour groups and reunions that stay in Arlington hotels on an annual basis. And there are millions of dollars to be made from those gatherings — by hotels, restaurants, taxi companies and the county government.

The average size of a meeting booked through the Arlington Convention and Visitor’s Service is 175 people, according to Arlington Economic Development spokeswoman Karen Vasquez. The average meeting attendee spends $116 per day in Arlington on things like meals, transportation, shopping and attractions. Meanwhile, the average hotel room in Arlington is just over $165 per night.

Put that together, and you have the average three-day meeting producing about $118,650 worth of spending in Arlington County. Of that spending, the county collects a 4 percent tax on meals and a 5.25 percent tax on the hotel room. Not a bad haul for a random meeting of a group that most people have probably never heard of — like the International Society for Medical Publication Professionals.

(The hotel tax will be going down to 5 percent in 2012 thanks to political wrangling in Richmond. The 0.25 percent that Arlington will lose had been going to fund Arlington’s tourism promotion efforts. In its new budget, the County Board included one-time funding to keep the tourism office open through the middle of 2012.)

After a jump, a list of some of the other meetings that have recently come or will be coming to Arlington.

  • Tabby

    Mastitis is really painful and can be dangerous (high fever, spread of infection throughout the body).

    • V Dizzle

      I’ve never heard a cow complain.

      • PghBigDog

        You’ve never been around a dairy then.

  • SoCo Resident

    What an headline: Don’t see how these are “Wacky” Coventions, or how the county coffers get “stuffed.”

    • pollosmoky


    • CW

      Do you personally pronounce the “h” in “headline” like the one in “herb”? Just curious. Got me thinking about how I wish “h” as a first letter was always silent. Seriously. It sounds cool.

      “What an ‘ell of an ‘eadline!”

    • Maria

      Tools for Recognizing Unconscious Signals of Trustworthiness Workshop? Professional Drug Association/Federal Drug Administration Conference on Glass Quality?

      Come on.

  • Thes

    The hospitality industry is great for Arlington and its taxpayers. We could do it even better.

  • KG

    as a planner of meetings and conventions, it’s nice to see them get some credit as how much money they bring into a particular area. i swear sometimes people think i’m just a glorified party planner.

  • OX4

    I bet the narcolepsy conference is a real snoozer.

    • axe

      It is actually quite interesting and lively, I have been in attendence many times.

  • Easton

    “The average meeting attendee spends $116 per day in Arlington…”

    I’m pretty skeptical of that number, especially given that it does not reportedly include lodging. $116 per day IN ARLINGTON ALONE (not counting trips to DC or Alexandria) seems way high. It’s an average, meaning that half the conference attendees spend more than that.

    Really, I don’t see the mastitis or affordable rural housing conference-goers splurging for hundreds of dollars a day on meals and shopping.

    And besides, how does AED come up with this? Seems likely it was pulled out of thin air.

    • South Arlington

      You seem to have confused an average with a median. An average (or mean, if you will) of $116 does NOT mean that half the attendees spend more than that. Work on your math before you start critiquing economic figures.

      • Easton

        Work on you manners before you start slamming other people’s comments. $116 is still highly doubtful, whether it’s a median or an average. Just common sense.

        • South Arlington

          First off, it seems highly UNlikely the economic stats were pulled from thin air. Second, have you ever been to one of these conventions? They usually have a danish/bagel platter put out, a catered lunch, often a catered dinner, not to mention they frequently have “parties” once or twice during the convention, casino nights, etc. All of those costs get rolled into what gets spent by these conventions and their participants. I don’t believe most conventioneers are walking over to McDonalds for all their meals. Also go check out the Ruths Chris and Mortons in Crystal City any weekday night and it is full of travelers and conventioneers blowing their per diems. When you don’t just spout off ad hoc, uneducated opinions, you can start talking about using common sense.

        • V Dizzle

          Note: “Median” is a method used to calculate an “average”. Remember, mean, median, and mode? You’re comparing median to mean.

    • CW

      Umm, that’s not unrealistic at all, even aside from arguments about mean/median. For someone on a government project, GSA per diem is $71 for Arlington. Add to that a couple of cab rides (expensed, of course) and a little personal expenditure and you’re at $116 easy. Private travelers on expense accounts or client accounts are likely to spend more, possibly much more.

      The mastitis people, for example, while unique and thus the subject of this article, don’t represent the statistical bulk of the travelers from which the $116 figure is derived. Who knows what “meeting” attendance includes. Presentations at the Pentagon or big DoD contractors? Those would certainly be some bigger spenders. And even the mastitis people probably represent big dairy groups, veterinary science programs, animal feed and drug manufacturers, and other entities with more than a little milk money in their pockets.

    • OX4

      Easton — try this link. $116 is not unreasonable for M&IE. http://www.gsa.gov/portal/category/100120

  • MC

    This is a useful article, given all the discussion about the hotel tax and convention and visitor’s service. The real value of ARLNow is getting facts out that people aren’t aware of. Very few residents can factually talk about the costs and benefits of different government programs — reporting like this allows such discussion to be grounded in a framework.


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