Groups & Meetings: Enough Is Enough
Travel spend for groups and meetings topped $95 billion last year, including flights, hotel room revenue, tour, cruise, car rental and ground transport. So when the groups and meetings market gets a bad rap, the travel industry takes a hit. But travel is not alone here. Nearly half of that $175 billion in spend in 2008 was not directly in travel. The other 46% was spent on meeting space, food and beverage, audio visual and other expenses.
Groups and meetings mean business, big business, both nationally and locally, to both the biggest airlines and hotel chains as well as the thousands—tens of thousands—of local small businesses servicing travelers. It has also been a hotbed of innovation as meeting planners, agencies and technology firms seek to drive group bookings online, integrate corporate meetings with procurement and expense management, and leverage social media to augment corporate and leisure group travel alike.
The double-digit declines widely reported across the travel industry over the past several months are tough enough on all of us. The additional politically-driven hit to the groups and meetings space adds a pound of salt to an already deep recessionary wound. Now, apparently, some members of Congress are taking an interest in writing travel management policies for corporations.
In an industry-wide call held on March 4, the U.S. Travel Association (USTA) made its stand to bring the travel industry together and address the crisis in groups and meetings. The USTA's objectives are the right ones:
influence the perception of the groups and meetings industry among politicians in Washington and the public through grass roots activism and media outreach;educate the government, media and public on the purpose, value and economic impact of groups and meetings not only to those who organize and attend them, but to the many local communities whose economies depend on them.
These objectives are shared by other important industry groups, including the National Business Travel Association (NBTA), Professional Meetings International (MPI) and the Professional Convention Management Association (PCMA). Each of these organizations has set up online resources where the travel industry can learn about the issues and how to take action, including:
contacting representatives in Congress, signing an online petition (14,000+ last time we checked on www.meetingsmeanbusiness.com), engaging in media outreach locally and nationally, encouraging creation of a clear and transparent meetings policy among corporations, communicating these initiatives throughout the travel industry.