Roger Dow, president and CEO of the U.S. Travel Association, today unveiled the Industry Coalition’s new information and advertising campaign called “Meetings Mean Business” to fight “irresponsible attacks” from the government and the media that are causing, what he characterized as massive cancellations of meetings, incentives, and events, as well as postponements of future bookings.

To a conference-call audience of hotel companies, convention bureaus, independent meeting planners, travel and meetings industry media, and others, Dow introduced a new Web site, www.meetingsmeanbusiness.com, where visitors can find talking points on the value of meetings, sample letters to legislators and newspapers, and other data and information. Dow said that what’s needed is a “grassroots army,” and he challenged every person on the call to find 50 people who would visit the Web site, write letters, and sign the Keep America Meeting petition. “It’s time for our industry to stand up and be heard,” said Dow.

The Meetings Mean Business campaign also has a paid advertising component, including a full-page ad in today’s USA Today and others to follow. And Dow noted that the campaign will be “launching a search for our ‘Joe the Bellman,’” inviting people to send in their videos about why they are the face of the meetings industry.

The campaign, Dow said, should shine light on three “Vs” of meetings, incentives, and events: their Value to business, their Value to the community, and the Victims of cancellations. The Industry Coalition ultimately hopes to convince the Treasury Department to use its model meetings and events policy as the basis for regulating meetings at companies that have received emergency lending from the government, to quiet the anti-meeting rhetoric, and to defeat bills that aim “to become the nation’s meeting planner,” Dow said.

When asked why the campaign isn’t specifically calling out Sen. John Kerry for the bill he’s introduced to Congress (S. 463), which would prevent companies that have received funds from the government’s Troubled Asset Relief Program from hosting conferences unless they got a waiver from the U.S. Treasury Department, Dow said they wanted to keep the campaign bipartisan and didn’t want to alienate anyone. “We’re having conversations with the Kerry office,” he said.

The Industry Coalition responsible for the campaign includes U.S. Travel, Meeting Professionals International, Professional Convention Management Association, National Business Travel Association, International Association of Exhibitions and Events, Site (formerly the Society of Incentive and Travel Executives), Destination Marketing Association International, and American Hotel & Lodging Association.