“The economy isn’t going to get much better in the next year,” said William A. Hanbury, president and CEO of Destination DC, and chair of Destination Marketing Association International. He was decrying the high cost of fuel and referring to “the chaos that is the airline industry,” at a press conference during DMAI’s annual convention in Las Vegas at Caesar’s Palace last week, which broke records with 3,000 attendees.

Hanbury and others sounded the rallying cry for destinations as they grapple with the realities of the travel landscape: a 20 percent cutback in airline capacity forecast for the fourth quarter, affecting large and small cities alike, but hitting second- and third-tier cities hardest, many of which rely on tourism and meetings as economic drivers. ”I don’t think Congress will sit around to see all of their cities affected,” Hanbury added. “What are [congressional representatives] from Flint and Lansing going to do when there’s Detroit-only service?”

Michael D. Gehrisch, president and CEO of DMAI, said he was on a recent call with the Convention Industry Council to discuss the effect of the economy and the airline crisis on the meetings industry. “We are going to partner with the Travel Industry Association in their efforts,” said Gehrisch.

Other highlights from the convention:

  • DMAI rolled out its massive study, “The Future of Destination Marketing,” which the DMAI Foundation conducted over the last six months. The report identified three strategic themes—relevancy, visibility, and value proposition—as well as eight globally focused “super trends,” that will affect destination marketing organizations, or convention and visitor bureaus, in the future. The report includes a strategic map, or action plan, helping DMOs identify the trends most meaningful to them and the steps to take to succeed.
  • As of next April, meeting planners will be able to use DMAI’s MINT, or Meeting Information Network, to enter data on their meetings. MINT, which houses information on more than 40,000 meetings and is available only to DMAI members, is undergoing a three-stage redesign. The upgraded system will have improved reporting, search features, online tools, and RFP submission; and include dates-rates-and-space and lead-generation capabilities. To accomplish the upgrade, DMAI has formed a strategic alliance with CVBHotRates.com and hired Donovan M. Shia as vice president of market intelligence.
  • Fifty-eight DMOs have been awarded the Destination Marketing Accreditation Program (DMAP) designation as of June 10. The program was established in 2007 to create consistent operations standards for DMOs. Visit www.destinationmarketing.org for a complete list.
  • DMAI has launched the “Go Travel Like a Local” campaign to extend its brand to leisure travelers and meeting planners. A series of ads will begin appearing on the Travel Channel as well as in industry and consumer publications. The ads drive home the fact that DMOs are the official, trusted, and unbiased local source of travel information. Visit www.GoTravelLikeALocal.com to be connected to more than 1,400 DMO Web sites.
  • Maura Allen Gast, FCDME, executive director of the Irving Convention & Visitors Bureau, Irving, Texas, became DMAI’s new chair on Wednesday afternoon. Gast, only the third woman to chair the association in its 94-year history, showed her passion for the industry in her remarks. “Our value proposition is more than just information and room nights. We’re about branding, education, and accreditation,” she said. “We want to show you how to grab our place at the table.”