If you're hearing less about the negative perception of meetings and incentive travel programs, it's no accident. The lobbying and public relations firms working for the Washington, D.C.-based U.S. Travel Association and its Meetings Mean Business campaign have orchestrated separate meetings between industry heavyweights and President Obama and Sen. John Kerry (D-Mass.) in the last two months. They've succeeded in focusing the media's attention on the jobs being lost due to the cancellations of meetings and incentive programs.
Geoff Freeman, senior vice president, U.S. Travel, was hopeful that, at press time, the Treasury Department would be issuing guidelines regarding executive compensation for recipients of Troubled Asset Relief Program funds that would not include restrictions on travel and meetings. “We do not expect Treasury to focus significantly on travel provisions. Our next success will be for Treasury to say that the boards of directors of TARP companies will put a policy in place that will prevent travel [and meetings] from being excessive and luxurious.”
Ideally, adds Freeman, “Treasury is not going to micromanage meetings and events, because we did a good job in making our case.”
The Convention Industry Council is undertaking a yearlong economic industry study, which will be modeled after a study conducted in Canada by Meeting Professionals International Foundation Canada and will prepare the industry for future fights.