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Boston ranks 18th in hosting corporate meetings, survey says

When it comes to hosting corporate meetings, Boston ranks 18th among cities across the country, ­according to a survey to be released Thursday.

Orlando topped the list, compiled by the event management software firm Cvent Inc., followed by Washington, D.C., Las Vegas, Miami, and Chicago.

Boston hosted more than 2,000 corporate meetings and conferences in the past 12 months, with an average of 200 to 300 attendees each, according to Cvent. That activity generated 750,000 hotel room nights.Many of the meetings were held at hotels around the city, and some of them were at the Boston Convention & Exhibition Center and the Hynes Veterans Memorial Convention Center.


The bulk of business at the South Boston convention center and the Hynes comes from industry trade shows and conventions that use exhibit space. Large corporate meetings with 1,000 or more attendees make up only 5 to 10 percent of the annual events at these two facilities, in addition to a number of smaller corporate meetings, according to the Massachusetts Convention Center Authority.

"The MCCA generates a significant amount of our business from associations and trade show groups, which were not included when these rankings were compiled," James Rooney, executive director of the convention authority, said of the list. "When these larger shows are included, Boston easily ranks in the top 10 meeting destinations in the United States, proof positive we need to expand to make Boston an even greater international destination for conventions and meetings."

Boston ranked eighth last year in major trade shows, tied with San Francisco and Anaheim, Calif., at seven shows apiece, according to Trade Show News Network, an online industry resource. Boston was 10th in 2010. Las Vegas had the most major trade shows of any city last year, with 55, followed by Orlando at 26 and Chicago with 21.


The rankings are based on the number of the top 250 trade shows each city attracts.

The convention center authority is seeking a $2 billion expansion of the South Boston facility that would double the amount of exhibition space to 1 million square feet.

Rachel Wimberly, editor in chief of the Trade Show News Network, said Boston needs to expand its convention center if it hopes to become a major player.

"In order for any city to attract more business and be ranked with the trade show heavyweights like Las Vegas, Chicago, and Orlando, the convention center would have to be of a certain size, so it only makes sense that Boston would need to expand," Wimberly said. Las Vegas and Chicago, for example, each have facilities with more than 1 million square feet in exhibit space.

But others are not convinced that expansion is necessary.

"I think there needs to be a transparent, solid case why the current facility isn't sufficient," said Lisa Petraglia of the Economic Development Research Group, a research and consulting firm in Boston. "If the need is to build hotels, then build hotels. Don't expand the convention center."

This is the first year Cvent, based in McLean, Va., has issued a ranking, based on more than 100,000 meetings and conferences booked through Cvent's system in the past year. The findings were compiled based on the number of hotel room nights generated, the number and value of meeting proposal requests sent, and the economic impact of the meetings booked.


Katie Johnston can be reached at kjohnston@globe.com. Follow her on Twitter @ktkjohnston.