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Blog / Bruce Macmillan, CA

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Posted 3/16/2009 1:02:31 PM

I want to give you an update on the industry advocacy activities that we continue to support through our participation with US Travel (including with other meeting industry organizations) as well as directly through the leadership of our chapters.

 

We have come a long way in three weeks. Last week the meeting industry flag was carried by lodging and travel industry CEOs directly to the White House, including a meeting with President Obama. Much of the focus of the 20-minute meeting with the president was the need for federal leadership to "stand down" from toxic comments and the threat of legislation/regulation on meetings and events. The president understood and recognized that the unintended consequences were greater than initially anticipated. The White House meeting prompted a press conference-generated headline (see below) reflecting the president's understanding of the need for a thriving industry. It was clear that the grass-roots industry messaging was getting through and was resonating.

 

A meeting with Sen. Kerry was equally productive. The senator expressed that he clearly had heard from constituents (I know letters from our New England Chapter were delivered as well as a letter that was followed up directly by the senator's chief of staff). He was very conciliatory and wants to be supportive of the industry starting with toning down his proposed legislation (the meetings and events reference is now gone - http://thomas.loc.gov/cgi-bin/query/z?c111:S.463) and he will not press it.

 

The collaborative grass-roots message is getting received loud and clear that the political rhetoric needs to stop because damage is being done to the "main street" economy. Our chapters are highly active, creating community events, issuing press releases, making presentations and mobilizing members to send letters.

 

The plan is working and it is essential that the energy of many be sustained. We need to keep the letters and communications flowing as legislators/policy-makers to be constantly reminded about the damage that reckless rhetoric can create. Go to our www.meetingindustrycrisiscenter.org site or to www.meetingsmeanbusiness.org for updates and resources.

 

We cannot stop now.

 

As part of the message, it is also imperative that the strategic business value of meetings and events be communicated. The MPI Foundation/George P. Johnson/Event Marketing Institute EventView 2009 Study is a vital piece of research to support this message. To that end, last Friday the three sponsoring organizations hosted a global webcast on the study's findings to not only provide compelling professional development, but also to provide crucial data points to support business decisions to hold meetings and events in the midst of a challenging economy.

 

Our chapters outside the US are also taking action. On April 14, our Canadian chapters will collaboratively host National Meeting Industry Day to raise the profile of meetings and events in Canada. Our European chapters are also collaborating around policy monitoring and common message development around the meeting and events industry in the European Union.

 

Some additional media coverage follows:

  • Fortune - "Not Every Corporate Trip is a Boondoggle" March 11, 2009
  • Associated Press - "White House says it encourages business travel" March 12, 2009
  • Reuters - "Hotel, travel executives press Obama on downturn" March 11, 2009 
  • Politico - "Obama reassures travel execs" March 11, 2009
  • Washington Post op-ed by J.W. Marriott Jr. - "Memo to Business: Let's Meet"

Still lots to do but clearly progress is being made because of an unprecedented collaboration of leadership and organizations at all levels. We will continue to work with the US Travel-lead coalition to collaboratively deploy research and messaging to get compelling data into the minds of the public as well as legislators. We are also exploring innovative ideas to get business moving again. Stay-tuned for that.

Thank-you for your continued support and action. Every letter, every phone call, every interview and presentation is making a difference.

Starwood Hotels

Naylor, LLC

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