RSNA defends rate increases in letter sent to meeting exhibitors

August 28, 1996

Society says conference costs have risenDespite recent increases in exhibiting rates, the RadiologicalSociety of North America claims that its annual Chicago meetingis still a bargain when compared with other medical trade shows.The RSNA

Society says conference costs have risen

Despite recent increases in exhibiting rates, the RadiologicalSociety of North America claims that its annual Chicago meetingis still a bargain when compared with other medical trade shows.The RSNA defended the new charges in a letter and other materialsgiven to exhibitors this month at a meeting of the society's corporaterelations committee in Santa Fe, NM.

The letter was a response to a short-lived campaign mountedby several vendors to protest the increases, which included higherrates for exhibit space, headquarters space, and drayage fees(SCAN 7/3/96 and 6/19/96). Especially galling to some vendorswas a new charge for aisle space that divides some of the largerbooths but is not technically part of the exhibitor's booth. Thevendor campaign fizzled after RSNA officials declined to discussthe new charges at an exhibitor meeting in June.

In its letter to exhibitors, the RSNA said that its rate increasesare a response to the rising costs of exhibit space, especiallyas public funds once used to support convention facilities likeChicago's McCormick Place dry up.

Convention centers built in the 1960s and 1970s were supportedby hotel occupancy taxes that were used to promote and operatethe facilities. The decline in federal funding for state and localgovernments in recent years has forced municipal governments todivert hotel tax revenue from convention center funding to roadbuilding and entitlement programs.

"As a result of this trend in decreased funding for publicfacilities, convention centers have been forced to increase theirfees for space rental and services," the RSNA materials state."Unfortunately, in this process, part of the cost containmenthas been reducing the services included in rental rates to expositionsponsors. The result has been increased space rental rates aswell as increased operating expenses for show producers forcedto pay for services previously included in contract rates."

The rental rates the RSNA pays McCormick Place will increaseby 20% between 1996 and 1997, and the RSNA will be responsiblefor all maintenance and cleaning expenses at the 1997 meeting.The cleaning cost alone is $70,000 over that of lower cost cities,the letter states.

The cost of drayage, which the RSNA is increasing from $16.50per cwt (hundred weight) to $18.75 per cwt, is a case in point.The increase reflects the fact that drayage fees for the RSNAmeeting have been artificially low, according to the society.

"Chicago and McCormick Place are known as an expensiveplace to do business," the materials state. "Recognizingthis, for several years the RSNA held labor and drayage costsartificially below market rates. As facility, labor, and othercosts continue to rise, the society is no longer in a positionto underwrite these operational expenses of exhibitors."

The aisle charge has been under consideration for several years.Vendors with multiple contiguous exhibits have advantages, dueto increased visibility and the use of "free" aislespace in the contiguous aisles, the RSNA believes. The aisle chargeis justified as aisles provide additional exposure for vendors.

The RSNA's materials include a comparison of RSNA charges withthose of other medical and high-tech trade meetings. Of the 10meetings on the RSNA's list, the society's rate of $23/squarefoot is second lowest, exceeding only the American Heart Association'srate of $22/square foot. The American College of Cardiology charges$24/square foot, the American Society of Neuroradiology $27/squarefoot, and the European Congress of Radiology charges $45/squarefoot.

"We realize that cost increases, in any market conditions,must be carefully weighed, giving due consideration to all partiesinvolved," the letter states. "We are confident thatany review of RSNA exhibit space rates relative to other meetingsin radiology or in major healthcare exhibitions will show currentrates to be competitive or below average."