The new Patti Roscoe Meetings and Events Professorship at San Diego State University's School of Hospitality & Tourism Management is the first chair named after a woman in the school's history. While now in semi-retirement, PATTI ROSCOE, WHO ENDOWED THE CHAIR and co-founded the SHTM, serves as director of PRA Destination Management, the company she founded and franchised. PRA grew to 19 offices before she sold it in 2007 to Allied International. We recently spoke with her in sunny Southern California.

Association Meetings: How has the destination management business changed since you started?

Patti Roscoe: DMCs were primarily small companies that handled city tours and airport transportation. As business group travel expanded, DMCs had to expand their offerings and become educated in the psychology of performance-improvement programs. The industry has also transitioned from a business of honor to one of veracity. We now have multi-page documents that outline each and every transaction and, if they are not followed to the letter, lawsuits ensue. It's no longer good enough to provide outstanding service and make a reasonable profit. Every step along the way, there are hands out looking for a commission from an ever-shrinking profit.

AM: How do you see DMCs adjusting to the recent economic downturn?

Roscoe: DMCs are adjusting the same as other businesses. People are being asked to work fewer paid days, staff layoffs are occurring, budgets are being slashed, and coffee stations have become pay stations.

From a client standpoint, DMCs are being asked to provide more educational, training, and teambuilding events. Group sizes are smaller and budgets are very tight. There is also much more sensitivity to the perception of client programs. Keeping a low profile and providing more serious program content has become important to many of our clients. Activities where attendees can give back to a community have gained in popularity, and green programs continue to flourish. Evening events with less glitz and alcohol have become the norm.

AM: What are the biggest challenges to DMCs going forward?

Roscoe: At this point, the biggest challenge is to stay in business. DMCs know how to be creative and work within meager budgets, but without business coming through the door, that is a moot point. We, as a country, must get back to the business of meetings, an important component in any company's marketing and financial plans. And our politicians and bureaucrats must stop deriding companies that hold meetings and performance-improvement programs.

AM: Are intellectual property rights a serious concern for DMCs?

Roscoe: Yes. For some reason, there are clients who seem to think it is OK to ask a DMC to spend hours putting together a creative event or proposal — hours that cost real money to a DMC in time and talent — then take those ideas and either try to produce them on their own or give them to another DMC to “match” for a lesser price. What could possibly be ethical about that? DMCs can try to protect their product by stating on each page of a proposal that their work is proprietary. Unfortunately, the alternative when a client disregards that statement is to take legal action, which is time-consuming, costly, and messy.

AM: Can you comment on the accreditation of destination management companies and certification of DMC professionals?

Roscoe: The biggest surprise over the years was that DMCs couldn't come together to create an organization to enhance our market discipline. In 1995, a group of DMC leaders formed the Association of Destination Management Executives (adme.org). It has been an overwhelming success in creating standards of professionalism and ethical practices and raising awareness of DMCs. Its Destination Management Certified Professional designation is now recognized as the benchmark for DMCs committed to high standards.