The conference has also hired a cellar crew to keep and track the beer, deliver it to the right places. In the past that was done by people in the host club area, who had tickets, but spent the time throwing kegs around in the cooler. Money well spent.
The AHA is not that many head count, what 5.5 or 6? If you have been to an NHC you see many more than that running registration and other functions. Many of the name tags of those can be recognized as BA staff. I don't think they are working the conference for free. Correct me if I am wrong, anyone.
There are other costs that most never think of. Security staff for the conference. Cleaning costs for all of the beer that ends up on carpets. There have to be other costs that go with the conference, that I am not aware of.
Sure they gross a lot of money at he conference, I don't think the net is as huge as many would think. If the conference did not run in the black, how many years would it take before there was no conference?
Edit - You could also say that the NHC has removed the social package for those that just wanted to drink beer and eat at the banquet, to a full ticket for AHA members that are serious about the seminars and getting the most education out of the conference. Of course there is nothing to keep anyone from becoming an AHA member and just drinking beer and eating at the banquet. If one likes the fact that the competition is limited to members this year, what is not to like about the conference being limited to members with a full package.