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July 6, 2009

US meetings legislation a knee-jerk reaction

Chris Gabaldon, vice president, sales, The Ritz-Carlton Hotel Company believes that the recent spate of meetings legislation for North America is “reactionary to a situation that most people don’t understand.”


One in eight people in the US work in travel and tourism, of which meetings represents a good third. However, according to Gabaldon, the industry has not done enough to articulate the value of meetings.

“There probably was some excess but 99 percent of meetings are valuable, motivational and create ideas and economic activity,” he explained.


Legislation is now being drafted by the US treasury and it is hoped the treasury will adopt guidelines set out by the US travel industry with regards to responsibility of meetings.

However, whether or not the legislation is restricted to those companies that have received TARP funds, the effect is starting to trickle down to other global markets.

“So many US companies operate in Asia and Europe. Those companies that are headquartered in the US and that have laid off employees, or are under media scrutiny are extending their meetings policies to cover meetings beyond the US,” Gabaldon told meetme.


“However, the Middle East is not seeing so much resistance to luxury. Business is done at a luxury level. There is not a great deal of resistance from a perception level. Similarly, European corporations, while concerned, don’t appear to be under the same pressure as their US counterparts,” he maintained.


So is there light at the end of the tunnel? For Ritz-Carlton, Gabaldon is confident of continued growth; after all 33 percent of the company’s total business is meetings and incentives related.

“Opportunities are out there. There are plenty of industries still doing well, such as newly emerging sectors like biotechnology, pharmaceutical and medical, and sustainable energy. We need to redirect our efforts to those industries that are growth orientated and looking to expand in the Middle East,” he recommended.


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