Chicago ran short of hotel rooms as the ASSE Safety 2011 expo opened on June 12.

Safety 2011: Chicago Runs Short of Hotel Rooms

Record attendance at the ASSE conference and expo coincided with several events in Chicago to make hotel rooms scarce in the Second City.

CHICAGO -- Several veterans of Chicago trade shows say they've never seen anything like the shortage of hotel rooms that occurred as ASSE's Safety 2011 conference began in earnest at McCormick Place West. With large events and meetings occurring in close succession, the city's hotel space was packed, and some unlucky exhibitors found themselves staying at hotels miles away from the facility.

The Chicago Blues Festival held in Grant Park and a major soccer game at Soldier Field took place as Safety 2011's expo opened June 12. The National Cable & Telecommunications Association's meeting in McCormick's North and South Buildings began June 14 and brought Chicago's new mayor, Rahm Emanuel, to McCormick for an appearance at the cable industry's largest trade show. NeoCon 2011, a furnishings show that attracts some 50,000 attendees annually to downtown Chicago's Merchandise Mart, began its three-day run on June 13.

Robert Loveless, an account manager for electrical safety testing and training company Shermco Inc., had driven with his family from Irving, Texas, headquarters of the company, so he could staff Shermco's booth at the Safety 2011 expo. Loveless said the travel arranger at his company told him to arrive Sunday, which he did, but he discovered upon arriving at his hotel that the reservation had been made for Saturday. The hotel staff had given away his room. Loveless said he spent four hours searching for a room and finally found one at a hotel in Joliet, 45 miles south of Chicago.

"They need to build more hotels," he said. "They have the largest amount of convention space in the country, so they need to build more hotels."

Other exhibitors told similar stories. Tom Gaudreau of PureSafety said he and the company's team were bumped from an overbooked Swissotel in downtown Chicago and moved to Schaumburg, a suburb about an hour's cab ride from the convention center.

An attendee from Cleveland said he tried to book a hotel two and half weeks prior to the show and had no luck finding a hotel room in Chicago or any surrounding suburb. He said he and his wife resorted to staying with relatives outside of the city.

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