The Intersection

Meetings (Still) Mean Business

The MMB is satisfied with the progress made since the recession hit in 2009, but there's more work to be done.

The events of 2009 might still seem fresh to some meeting and travel professionals. That perfect storm of a recession, combined with a presidential reprimand over the cost of events staged by companies receiving federal bailout money, left the industry scrambling — and without an advocate on Capitol Hill.

“Amazingly, we couldn’t find one executive from the industry willing to do that,” Nan Marchand Beauvois, vice president of national councils and general manager of the Educational Seminar for Tourism Organizations for the U.S. Travel Association, says during the latest video for The Intersection, presented by PCMA and PSAV.

“Our industry took an incredible hit; we were hemorrhaging,” Beauvois says. “And we said, ‘We need to do something. We need to stop this rhetoric that’s coming out of the Capitol.’”

U.S. Travel took the lead in forming the Meetings Mean Business Coalition (MMBC), which compiled data and talking points to help spread the word that the travel and meetings industries support millions of U.S. jobs and generate more than $200 billion in annual revenue. “That allowed us to say, ‘Look at the power of meetings,’” Michael Dominguez, CHSE, senior vice president and chief sales officer for MGM Resorts International, says in the video. “We were bigger than the auto industry. And we weren’t asking for a bailout — we were just asking for everyone to shut up.”

With numerous industry heavy-hitters in its ranks — including PCMA — MMBC hasn’t rested on its laurels for six years. The coalition is busy planning a Global Business Meetings Industry Day for April 16, 2016, and also releases a steady stream of fact sheets, videos, talking points, and press releases to bolster the industry. But to continue to be successful, it takes a village.

“What we need to do next is make sure we have more champions to continue to spread the voice and the word on what’s happening with Meetings Mean Business, and why meetings are important,” says Cathy Tull, senior vice president of marketing for the Las Vegas Convention & Visitors Authority, “so we don’t get into a lull where we forget that we need to have one voice and we are strongest with one voice.”

Will MMBC’s work ever be done? “Success means that we don’t have to explain how valuable we are to our elected officials,” Beauvois says in the video. “We don’t have to explain to corporate America that if there is a financial downturn, you don’t cut your budgets for meetings and events, and for your businesspeople going out into the field. You continue to maintain those.”

And when crises do arise, as they always do: “Now we have a phone tree. That’s the beauty of this coalition.”

Corin Hirsch

Corin Hirsch is associate editor of Convene.