Misinformation in the Internal Report of Trade Centre Limited of June, 2010

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Trade Centre Limited (TCL) produced a document titled “Market Projections for a Proposed New Convention Centre, 10 Year/by Market Segment, Internal Staff Report, June 2010”.1 That document was used as the basis of a July, 2010, economic impact assessment by Gardner Pinfold,2 which was in turn used by the Province of Nova Scotia in considering the business case for a proposed convention centre.3

That Internal Report is seriously flawed. Some of these flaws were pointed out by Dr. Heywood Sanders when he visited Halifax in November, 2010.4-6 That flawed document should not be a basis for any decision by any government. But two governments have given the convention centre project approval in principle using that flawed document.
The purpose of this article is to point out some of the flaws in the Trade Centre report.

  1. The TCL Market Projections Report states that “The industry grew by more than 800 international conferences between 2007 and 2008.” (Page 4)1 The references given for this are ICCA Statistics Report 2007 and ICCA Statistics Report 2008. During his visit to Halifax, Dr. Sanders showed pages from the original reports, prepared by the International Congress and Convention Association (ICCA).6 We have subsequently obtained copies of the full reports.7-10 The increased number of events reported is attributed by ICCA as partly reflecting the strength of the market, and “partly thanks to a record number of ICCA members sending us their calendar information to help identify new events, and partly it is thanks to increased research investment.”7 Similar words appear in the other ICCA reports. However, the TCL Internal Staff Report did not mention the improved reporting and increased research, but claimed the entire change in the numbers was an increase in the number of events occurring. The ICCA Associations Meetings Market 1999-2008 reported that the number of international events was 7,578 events in 2007 and 7,475 events in 2008, a decrease of 103 events.6,7 This is the reverse of the claim by TCL.

  2. The TCL Market Projections states, “The average attendance at these events has also grown at an average of 15%.” (Page 4)1 However, Dr. Sanders showed that the ICCA Associations Meetings Market 1999-2008 stated that “In 2008 the average number of participants per meeting was 638, an increase of 20 compared to 2007.”6,7 This increase is only 3.2%, a fifth of the increase claimed by TCL. Dr. Sanders also showed a page from the ICCA Associations Meetings Market 2000-2009, which showed that average attendance at international meetings declined by 27% between 2000 and 2007, an average decline of 4.4% per year. 6,8 Again, this is the reverse of the claim by TCL.

  3. The TCL Market Projections says “Canada’s share of international events increased from 132 events in 1999 to 231 events in 2008, representing roughly 5% growth per year.” (Page 11)1 The provincial bid summary and the TCL presentation to HRM Council repeated this statement.3,12 TCL based its estimates of future events on the assumption that this trend would continue. However, as noted in point 1 above, the trends in the ICCA reports are changes in the number of events reported, not the number of events occurring. Dr. Sanders showed a page from the ICCA Associations Meeting Market 2000-2009, where the number of international events held in Canada in 2004 is listed as 204, and the number in 2009, as 213.6,8 This represents an average growth rate of only 0.9% per year in events reported. Even going back to 2000, when ICCA says reporting was weak, the growth in Canadian events reported has only been 2.7% per year. The ICCA Associations Meeting Market 1999-2008 shows that Canada’s share of international events has remained static during that period at between 3.2% and 2.5% of world-wide events. 6,7

  4. The TCL Market Projections says on page 3 that the existing World Trade and Convention Centre (WTCC) hosted 163,365 attendees in fiscal 2008/09.1 However, the official Annual Report of TCL for 2008/09 says the WTCC only hosted 96,534 attendees in that year.13 The number in the Market Projections is 69% greater than that in the Annual Report.

  5. The title of the Internal Report is “Market Projections …”.1 “Projection” is defined in the on-line Merriam-Webster Dictionary as “an estimate of future possibilities based on a current trend”. The Internal Report gives tables of “Projected Events” on page 20.1 For example, the number of international events is assumed to grow from seven events in 2008/09 and in the first year of operation of a new centre, to 29 events in the tenth year of operation. This is an increase of 314%, or an average growth rate of 17% per year for each of the years of operation. There is no “current trend” that could justify this assumption. Indeed, as seen in items 1 and 3 above, the rate has been only 0.9 to 2.7%. In the past decade, no North American city has seen its international convention business grow at even half the rate assumed by TCL.8

  6. Similarly, Market Projections has a table of “Projected Attendance” on page 21.1 This assumes attendance at international events in Halifax would grow by 304% from the first year of operation to the tenth. The average growth rate would be 16.8% per year. Again, no “current trend” would justify this growth rate. As shown in item 2 above, the trend is to declining or stable attendance per event.

  7. Similar weaknesses exist in other aspects of the Market Projections. The “projected attendance” at national association meetings is assumed to grow by 2.9 times, a growth rate of 12.9% per year. The attendance at national corporate meetings is assumed to increase six-fold. (Page 21)1 These estimates are overblown and unsubstantiated.

       The Internal Report is not a “projection”; it is an unsupportable, overblown promotion. And yet this is the basis of the economic impact analysis and business case used by governments in considering the expenditure of $374 million in public money over the next 25 years.

TCL clearly has a conflict of interest in this matter. No staff member has taken responsibility by placing his or her name on the document. No professional qualifications are listed that would justify making these “projections”. A number of the statements made are clearly not accurate.

The TCL Internal Staff Report has supplanted a report prepared by professional consultants, HLT Advisory Inc.14 The latter report estimated smaller numbers of attendees. This report was not cited as a reference in the Internal Staff Report. Based on the HLT report, Gardner Pinfold performed an economic impact analysis that estimated provincial tax revenues of about $3 million a year,15 very similar to the tax revenues estimated for the existing convention centre.13 These revenues would be too small to justify the expenditure of provincial funds. It would be prudent for governments to give the arms-length, professional report by HLT more weight than the self-interested, anonymous, inaccurate report by TCL.  Public money should not be spent based in any way on the TCL Internal Staff Report.

References: (Excerpts from these reports are available as a pdf file, with quoted sections highlighted in boxes or underlined.)

    1. https://conventioncentreinfo.com/wp-content/uploads/2010/06/Market-Projections-For-a-Proposed-New-Convention-Centre.pdf
    2. https://conventioncentreinfo.com/wp-content/uploads/2010/07/July-2010_EIA_FINAL_.pdf
    3. https://conventioncentreinfo.com/wp-content/uploads/2010/10/WTCC-II-Bid-Summary.pdf
    4. Dr. Heywood Sanders, The Convention Centre Market and the Case for Halifax, Saint Mary’s University, November 8, 2010, DVD, Coalition to Save the View.
    5. Dr. Heywood Sanders, Sanders at HRM Council, November 9, 2010, DVD, Coalition to Save the View.
    6. Dr. Heywood Sanders, presentation at Halifax Regional Council, November 9, 2010, slides, http://www.halifax.ca/council/agendasc/documents/101109cow3sanders.pdf.
    7.  Statistics Report, The International Association Meetings Market Abstract for non-members 1999-2008, International Congress and Convention Association, Amsterdam, 2009.
    8. Statistics Report, The International Association Meetings Market Abstract for non-members 2000-2009, http://www.iccaworld.com/dcps/docreturn.cfm?searchid=77&SearchBy=DocCatID
    9. Statistics Report, The International Association Meetings Market 2007, International Congress and Convention Association, Amsterdam, 2008.
    10. Statistics Report, The International Association Meetings Market 2008, International Congress and Convention Association, Amsterdam, 2009.
    11. Telephone conversation with M. van Itterzon, January 3, 2011.
    12. http://www.halifax.ca/council/agendasc/documents/101019cow3pres.pdf.
    13. http://www.tradecentrelimited.com/site-tcl/media/tradecentrelimited/TCL%20Annual%20Report%200809.pdf
    14. https://conventioncentreinfo.com/wp-content/uploads/2010/11/HLT-Advisory-Report-1.pdf
    15. https://conventioncentreinfo.com/wp-content/uploads/2010/06/Gardner-Pinfold-EIA-Report.pdf.