Leaders from across the meetings industry gathered last month in New Orleans to launch an advocacy and research initiative to determine the economic impact of the meetings industry. While the Convention Industry Council has done economic impact studies in the past, this is believed to be the first time all leaders of the industry have collaborated with the goal to lobby the White House and Congress, and communicate with the public on the size of the meetings industry and its importance to the economy.

The meeting, held at the Professional Convention Manage-ment Association annual convention, was attended by leaders from nine associations and two industry supplier organizations: PCMA, CIC, Meeting Professionals International, the U.S. Travel Association, the National Business Travel Association, Destination Marketing Association International, Site, the International Association of Exhibitions and Events, the Association of Corporate Travel Executives, Maritz, and Freeman.

The industry was caught flat-footed last fall by the criticism directed at meetings and incentives in the wake of the AIG incentive trips and other bad press because it didn't have the research with which to fight back, explained Christine Duffy, president, Maritz Travel Co., Fenton, Mo. “We don't want to find ourselves in that position again,” she said.

The plan, at this point, is to retain a research firm to complete an economic impact study within a year to 18 months. The group hopes to publish the results as they become available.

Through USTA, which is already lobbying Congress about the impact of the travel and hospitality industry, the group will lobby Washington specifically about meetings.