Corporate convention bookings remain sluggish

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With the economy on the rebound, Americans once again are cracking open their pocketbooks to take family vacations and other leisure trips.

But corporate managers in charge of spending for business conferences and conventions remain tightfisted with their money.

That is one conclusion from a study of bookings at nearly 4,000 hotels by TravelClick, a New York company that provides booking software and business data for major hotel chains.

Hotel bookings for leisure travelers in North America for the next 12 months are up 4.6 percent, while bookings for individual business travelers are up 7 percent compared with the previous period, according to TravelClick.

But bookings for groups are up only 1.7 percent, according to the report.

"What that would tell me is that indeed there is caution in buying in the business environment," said Tim Hart, executive vice president for business intelligence at TravelClick.

That trend holds true in Los Angeles, where the city's convention center has booked 23 conventions for 2013, the same number as 2012. But the conventions are much smaller compared with last year, when the city hosted major gatherings such as the American Heart Association conference, which drew about 28,000 people.

"They are still coming for meetings, but maybe the travel budget has been cut so they might not be staying as long," said Susan Lomax, a spokeswoman for the Los Angeles Tourism and Convention Board.

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