News for the Hospitality Executive
Saving the Meetings Industry: A Call to Action
|by Michael Frenkel
March 13, 2009
Here’s a revelation: Our industry is under attack.
From the hallowed halls of Washington, to the Boardrooms of Wall Street, it seems clear that no one wants to be seen supporting an industry that, well . . . brings people together, gives them a forum for ironing out differences and educating one another, and generally, allows businesses to function productively and efficiently.
Isn’t that a bit strange?
Here we are in the “worst economic crisis since the Great Depression,” and pundits are making sport attacking an industry that boosts the economy, provides jobs, and brings people together.
How did this happen, and what’s to be done about it?
The “how,” is a complicated question. When things get tough, people instinctually react against the most visible, tangible signs of the problem.
It’s not easy for Main Street to vent frustration against a derivative, a CDO or a leveraged buyout. Most people, 99%, don’t even know what those things are.
But hotels, there’s a different story: You know, those gilded hallways full of nice artwork, plush carpeting, the latest in technology, and courteous wait staff who serve endless supplies of breakfast muffins and fresh-brewed coffee to famished meeting-goers.
There’s something wrong with that picture when people are living in tents and eating cat food in Sacramento, no?
Well actually, not really.
As an industry – and I mean the hotel industry as well as meetings and events -, we are far too timid about what we do, how we do it, and the benefits we provide to society as a whole.
Yes, we provide space to self-important bankers who make crazy deals and plunder the public treasury, booze themselves into oblivion and (very occasionally!) entertain high-priced hookers in plush suites on the company dime.
But we also host charities, often at reduced if not complimentary rates, making it possible for them to do their important work.
We provide jobs in communities that need them.
We train young people in the ethic of service, and patient, hard work - building careers that begin behind front desks or in housekeeping break rooms, but end up in corporate board rooms. We increase the value of real estate dramatically when we initiate building new projects, bringing to municipalities multi-use structures that are not only meeting places for business, but hubs for local retail outlets, gathering places for out of town visitors (who inject money into the local community), and that even generate a dose of local pride and union activity in small towns and large cities.
All this cannot happen without a thriving hotel industry - and its lifeblood is a vibrant, profitable meetings industry.
So why is none of this getting reported?
It can only mean one thing – we are not communicating effectively about what meetings are and do, what their ROI is, and why, in spite of the pundits and prognosticators and foretellers of doom, they are not going away. Not any time soon. Not ever.
It’s time for leaders of the industry to stand up and challenge the naysayers head on, in clear language that pulls no punches and refuses to cow to the ill-temper and political correctness of the day.
Meetings matter. And we are all better off for having them.
Those who tell that story effectively, will not only do more business – they will sleep better at night, too.
|Also See:||Guidlines for Meetings and Events Held by Companies that have Received Emergency Government Lending Issued by U.S. Travel Association, AH&LA and Others; Policies Support Prudent Use of Taxpayer Dollars while Supporting Meetings and Events Industry / February 2009|