Washington, DC – Saying business travel was “under siege” by ill-informed politicians and the media, the business travel industry launched a new website and outreach campaign to pitch the benefits of meetings and events.
The MeetingsMeanBusiness.com site that debuted March 5 is meant as a resource for the travel industry in its campaign to keep a positive image of business travel and fend off any potential restriction originating in Washington.
“We are under siege,” said Jonathan Tisch, chairman of Loews Hotels and the U.S. Travel Association (USTA), part of a coalition of industry associations that is behind MeetingsMeanBusiness.com.
The MeetingsMeanBusiness site includes economic-impact data for each state. Roger Dow, president and CEO of the USTA, said work was underway to nail down more-specific information about the number of meetings cancelled for public relations reasons. “When you have the dollar value of these meetings available and how it is tied to jobs, it is very important,” he said.
In a conference call with industry leaders, Tisch said criticism of various meetings sponsored by struggling financial firms had led to “corrosive rhetoric from elected leaders who don’t necessarily know what they are talking about.”
Such rhetoric along with media coverage of business events involving firms receiving Federal financial assistance had created a public relations nightmare for companies that were cancelling events in droves. The USTA cited a poll released in late February by Meetings & Conventions magazine in which 21% of the 135 respondents said they had cancelled an event “as a direct result of the bailout backlash against meetings and travel.”
Another 38% said their company had decided to avoid holding meetings at upscale hotels and 28% were foregoing golf resorts.
Geoff Freeman, senior vice president of public affairs for the USTA, was quoted in The San Diego Union-Tribune saying meetings and events had been relegated to the same level as alcohol and tobacco in the “new Washington”. He said, “That’s the newest sin, meetings and events.”
MeetingsMeanBusiness.com seeks to organize a grassroots campaign by the industry to convince lawmakers and the media that business travel and events are good for the economy both in terms of direct jobs and spending in a community, but also as a contributor to a general recovery.
Participants in the call were each urged to rally another 50 colleagues to help spread the word about the value of meetings, but also to their employees who may be miffed at being told to tighten their belts while their colleagues jet off to a business meeting at an upscale hotel.
A newspaper ad being placed in early March confronted Congress directly with the headline, “Want to lose one million more jobs? Just keep talking.”
On the conference call, Dow said the travel industry preferred not to single out individual members of Congress for criticism but rather to make sure as many local, state and national political leaders knew of the benefits of events and the risks of further job loss should the industry decline further.
Reach Roger Dow at (202) 408-8422 or email@example.com
“Want to lose one million more jobs? Just keep talking.”
U.S. Travel Association advertisement