After two years of consulting with each other on the content for their annual meetings, the Professional Convention Management Association and the Association of Corporate Travel Executives announced plans for a strategic alliance that will expand their educational offerings, create opportunities for joint research, offer special rates for members attending each other’s events, and lay the groundwork for co-locating specific events starting as early as January 2010.

PCMA has 6,100 meeting professional members, the majority of whom are U.S.-based association meeting executives, who organize many of the largest meetings in North America and throughout the world, while ACTE’s 2,500 senior travel industry executive members come from more than 80 countries.

ACTE President Richard Crum, who just took office last week, made it clear at a press conference held on Thursday that this alliance is in no way connected to his association’s recent failed merger talks with the National Business Travel Association, a story we reported on last week. Crum is president of Airplus International Inc.

“We would not have considered this alliance if we did not think it would provide benefits to both our memberships,” said Deborah Sexton, PCMA president and CEO. “Through this alliance, we will offer more to our respective memberships and to the industry as a whole.” She emphasized that the decision “was not born out of financial problems or a need for revenue, she said. “Our membership is up 15 percent.”

According to the leaders of both associations, talk of a strategic alliance began in earnest last October when they saw more companies merging meetings and travel planning into one role. “There is a continuing convergence of travel professionals becoming responsible for meeting planning and meetings professionals being asked to manage travel,” said John Folks, 2009 PCMA chairman of the board and president and principal of Minding Your Business Inc.

Though the two groups share no overlapping membership, their leadership sees many similarities between them: Both represent “top-tier” executives, both focus on quality education, and both are committed to advocacy and research. They hope to collaborate on research, said Sexton, as well as to provide a broader audience for their supplier partners.

No co-located meetings have been announced yet, but the first one could come as soon as early 2010 when PCMA meets in Dallas January 10-13. (Las Vegas is booked for January 2011, and San Diego for January 2012.) A potential benefit for PCMA members is that ACTE meetings are held around the world (its Global Education Conference will be held in Prague October 25–27), and the alliance would open up opportunities for members of both associations to network and attend meetings in other countries.

“There’s no question that co-located events is one of the paths that we want to go down,” said Sexton. “It’s a great opportunity and will clearly be one of the major benefits of this alliance. The benefits are not just cost savings, but also the ability to build attendance and benefit the destination.”

“This is not a merger. We remain stand-alone entities,” confirmed Sexton, who made it clear a merger between PCMA and ACTE was not in the cards. “Both organizations will also maintain their own boards of directors, and there are no intentions for shared board members.”

NBTA has an agreement with Meeting Professionals International under which MPI members receive NBTA member pricing for NBTA's events and NBTA members receive MPI member rates at their education programs.