MEETING INDUSTRY LOBBY HITS WASHINGTON, DC Over the blare of recorded music at Washington, DC's Planet Hollywood Restaurant, participants in the fourth annual Meeting Industry Legislative Action Day (MILAD) March 6 traded notes between visits to Congressional offices. Sponsored by Meeting Professionals International (MPI), MILAD brought together 331 meeting planners, hoteliers, association officials, and convention and visitor bureau representatives.

Participants called on Congress to restore the business meal and entertainment deduction to 100 percent--or at least bring it back to 80 percent. LeeAnn Harle, an independent meeting planner from Dallas, told Rep. Ken Bentsen (D-TX) that the business meal deduction encourages her to make deals over lunch, keeping her business competitive with firms having large promotional budgets. Since there is little chance of an increased tax break without a revenue offset, MPI's defensive strategy is to protect the existing 50 percent write-off.

Lobbyists also focused on supplementing the current meager funding for the National Tourist Organization (NTO), which replaced the U.S. Travel and Tourism Administration. Proposals for NTO funding sources include an airline departure fee--possibly reflected in the ticket price--or a fee paid at the airport by both Americans and foreign travelers. But the airlines will oppose any measure that significantly raises the cost of airline tickets, one lobbyist contended. If no permanent financing is found by October 1998, NTO will have to fold its tent.

* June 22 to 26, Society of Incentive & Travel Executives University of the Americas, Charleston, SC. (212) 575-0910.

* July 19 to 23, International Association of Convention & Visitor Bureaus, Hong Kong. (202) 296-7888.

* August 3 to 5, Meeting Professionals International World Education Conference, Baltimore. (972) 702-3000.