Industry Associations Unite to Promote Value of Meetings
At PCMA Convening Leaders in Boston, a large group of industry professionals launched a new national campaign that seeks to showcase the value business meetings, conferences, conventions, incentive travel, trade shows and exhibitions provide to the global and local communities. The campaign –which shares the name of the coalition backing the effort, "Meetings Mean Business" – will create an information and advocacy platform that highlights the industry's pivotal role in creating jobs, generating economic value and driving business success.
And while this particular campaign is new, the initiative behind it is much older. “The Original campaign was launched in 2009 in response to the recession and the damage Capitol Hill did to the industry,” David Peckinpaugh, president of Maritz Travel and co-chair of the Meetings Mean Business coalition, told International Meetings Review. In those early days, U.S. Travel sponsored the initiative. “Now, it’s a coalition. We’ve been working on this for 18 months and creating a strategic framework. This is a single-voice approach to these challenges.”
At a press conference held during Convening Leaders, U.S. Travel President Roger Dow emphasized that Meetings Mean Business is not meant to defend the business travel industry, but to protect and promote. “We cleared up some misconceptions,” he said. “And today, it’s a different environment. We’ve shown the value we bring to the table. Meetings Means Business will go on the offensive, not the defensive.”
PCMA President and CEO Deborah Sexton agreed that while the overall situation is improving, the efforts need to continue. “We can’t stop,” she said. “When things are down, we scramble, but when things are good, we sit back.” Efforts like Meetings Mean Business need to continue to make the message more complex, she continued. “Now, there is a consistent message that educates a lot of people.”
The significance of industry-wide unification is significant, Peckinpaugh said, as is the financial and logistical investment to create long-term sustainable campaign on value of face-to-face meetings. “The focus right now is on the U.S., but phases four and five will be global,” he said. “We must include ICCA, but first we have to solve the problem in our own backyard.”
Governmental Support and Awareness
Following the GSA and IRS scandals of the past few years, the meetings and events industry has come under fire, and Peckinpaugh said that planners feel that, as a group, they are under attack from politicians and public mindset alike. “We're an invisible industry,” he said. “Until 2008 or 2009, there was no understanding of our impact. We're driver of job creation. People look at the auto industry for that, but travel is far superior in terms of economic impact. The issue is trying to get that understood.”
Still, even before the launch of Meetings Mean Business, the industry has seen increased support and awareness. Just a few years ago, there were no advocates for the combined travel and meetings industry on Capitol Hill. Now, dozens of government representatives are voicing their support. “As an industry, we’ve made progress since 2009, but the problem has not been solved,” Peckinpaugh said.
Meetings Mean Business is organized around three pillars:
Creating Personal Connections – Personal relationships are at the core of every business decision, no matter what industry. A face-to-face meeting provides professionals with that personal interaction, which leads to deeper relationships.
Driving Positive Business Outcomes – Meetings and events deliver profits, help win new accounts and serve as education platforms. They provide a venue for introducing new products and ideas and allow colleagues and partners to come together to innovate and achieve results.
Building Strong Communities – Outside of the results driven by business meetings, the events and meetings industry creates hundreds of thousands of jobs, generates billions of dollars of revenue and supports communities across the country.
The campaign will also focus on how meetings and conferences are an essential business tool for departments and agencies across the entire government. “They facilitate effective information sharing, employee training and development, taxpayer services, and collaboration with other agencies and private-sector partners in a way that cannot be accomplished by other means,” the new collective said in a statement.
Meetings Mean Business draws support from leaders across business, professional associations and destination marketing organizations.. Members include the U.S. Travel Association, American Society of Association Executives (ASAE), Caesars Entertainment, Convention Industry Council (CIC), Cruise Lines International Association (CLIA), Disney Destinations, Destination Marketing Association International (DMAI), Helms Briscoe, Hilton Worldwide, Hyatt Corporation, the International Association of Exhibitions & Events (IAEE), Maritz Travel, Marriott International, Meetings Professionals International (MPI), MGM Resorts, Professional Convention Management Association (PCMA), Society of Independent Show Organizers (SISO), Site Global, Starwood Hotels and Resorts Worldwide, and many of the major DMOs across the country. A full list of the coalition can be found at www.MeetingsMeanBusiness.com.