By Angela Jameson
London's business travel industry would stand to make millions of pounds if the Millennium Exhibition site were developed into an international convention centre afterthe celebrations were over, according to a leading industry figure.
Michael Hirst, chairman of the Joint Hospitality Industry Congress, has written to Peter Mandelson, the Government minister responsible for the millennium celebrations, to urge him to consider a convention centre for the Greenwich dome.
"We need a purpose-built London venue capable of holding 3,000 to 5,000 people," said Mr Hirst, "and the only way to get it may be to convert the exhibition building. This could be the key to the project's viability and would attract hotel developers."
If the millennium site were developed as a convention centre, investment in hotels nearby would be justified, argued Mr Hirst. Some 668 hotel bedrooms are already under construction on the Thames's south bank, with another 353 likely to be built by 2000.
Although analysts have suggested that this figure is inadequate to cater for even modest growth, hoteliers are still concerned that creating oversupply might end the current high levels of occupancy.
"No one can be expected to build a hotel for one year's business," said David Bailey, associate director at BDO Hospitality Consulting.