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Impacted by pandemic, Palm Springs Convention Center looks to the future

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The Palm Springs Convention Center is normally hopping and packed with events, including the International Film Festival Red Carpet Gala. 

But now the place is mostly empty, the schedule is blank, and the foyer is strangely quiet. 

"It's been very sad. That's the only word that comes to mind for me. It's very sad," said Convention Center General Manager Rob Hampton. 

Hampton says the past 11 months have been unlike any time he has ever experienced in the industry.

52 events have been cancelled since last march, meaning $7 minion in lost revenue for the facility alone.

There is an even greater $110 million loss for businesses in the city. 

"The small business owners are reaching out to us, asking when are meetings coming back, when conventions are going to start again," said Hampton. 

Hotels in the city are among the businesses hit especially hard because of the cancelations. Hampton estimates their losses at about $16 million. 

Hampton says there are currently only a "handful" of events remaining on the convention center's schedule for the rest of 2021.

He says those could also be cancelled.

The California Association of Health Facilities cancelled their event last year and have tentative plans to meet at the convention center in November.

"We can't wait to get back to Palm Springs.  We love the relationship that we have with the city and with the convention center," said Laura Thompson, Director of Meetings for the association. 

An informational video was posted by the convention center shortly after the pandemic began.

It details the CDC aligned procedures, protocols and PPE the convention center now has in place for when conventions and business meetings are allowed to resume in the state.

"We came together immediately and looked at our safety and sanitation protocols that were already in place just to make sure we are at the levels the CDC requires," said Hampton. 

Hampton says the strategy for moving forward includes offering a "safe place" and understanding the needs of event planners.

The GM says through the year 2030, they currently have 225 "pieces" of business on the schedule.

Before the pandemic, the Palm Springs Convention Center had 35 full time employees on staff and provided work to roughly 350 contractors.  

Now, they are down to 8 full time employees. 

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Tom Tucker

Tom Tucker is a veteran broadcast journalist with nearly 20 years of experience. Learn more about Tom here.

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