Big Ideas

The Power of Was

At AIBTM Geoff Freeman — executive vice president and COO of the U.S. Travel Association — said that the meetings and travel industry was the Rodney Dangerfield of Capitol Hill.

Nothing new there. It seems that the U.S.-based meetings industry has been in a defensive posture ever since the fall of 2008, when a group of AIG General sales executives were discovered to have enjoyed an incentive retreat at a California resort.

But what was new at last week’s Meetings Significance Forum was, well, “was.” The industry was the Rodney Dangerfield of Capitol Hill. But today, Freeman said, legislators are well aware of the importance of meetings and travel to the economy — their power to generate jobs, stimulate growth, and support infrastructure. Which is why the GSA spending scandal this past spring, while rightly criticized, was treated largely as an aberration, with legislators declining to condemn all government meetings everywhere.

It’s taken us a while to get here. But I hope that Freeman’s comments at AIBTM represent an industry-wide shift, from a defensive, reactive posture to a more positive, proactive one. Meetings mean business. They get it. So let’s forget the slings and arrows of the last four years and keep organizing great ones.

Christopher Durso

Christopher Durso formerly was executive editor of Convene.