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Meeting planners to meet in S.L.

About 3,000 expected to attend 2009 convention

Salt Lake City will be home to the Olympics once more — the Olympics of the meeting industry, that is.

Meeting Professionals International, based in Dallas, will hold its annual world education congress in Salt Lake City in July 2009, Scott Beck, president and chief executive officer of the Salt Lake Convention & Visitors Bureau, announced Thursday.

MPI is the largest association for the meetings profession, with more than 19,000 members in 66 chapters and clubs. About 3,000 of those members are expected to attend the 2009 conference.

"This is their biggest annual meeting," Beck said. "It's huge. They are people who are in the industry of plan-

ning, executing and selecting destinations for conventions, meetings and trade shows."

Beth Belt, director of conventions for the bureau, said Salt Lake City beat out five other cities for the MPI conference, including Vancouver, Canada; St. Louis, Mo.; Kansas City, Kan.; Las Vegas; and Orlando, Fla.

Belt was instrumental in bringing MPI to Utah. She started a local chapter of MPI and went on to serve on an international committee with the organization.

"I would bring those committee meetings to Salt Lake so that the people on my committee had the experience of Salt Lake," Belt said. "From them being here, they became strong ambassadors."

Belt said it will be important to showcase Salt Lake City the right way.

While the city's infrastructure is above-average, it carries a dull reputation and is lacking in night life, Beck said, citing a recent survey by the American Society of Association Executives.

"You have one shot," Belt said. "You have them here for three or four days. We need to make sure the city is ready and the hotels are ready, because they're a reflection of any experience for them to return.

"I think the main thing is just making sure that we are able to show them a good time. They need to see that we do enjoy ourselves, that this is a place that they can find the entertainment and the type of nightlife that people are looking for."

The announcement highlighted a 2006 marketing plan also announced by the bureau.

Typical convention delegates to Salt Lake City spend roughly $841 in Salt Lake County businesses, Beck said. This year $260 million in direct visitor spending will be generated from conventions and trade shows, ski groups, tours and leisure travelers.