Message from the President

I hope all of our ICPA family had a wonderful holiday season filled with warm memories. As we return to our normal routines and make plans for the year ahead, it is important for us to take a look back to 2003. For ICPA, accomplishments included the following:

  • In a year that brought economic instability and job uncertainty, our membership numbers held constant. We developed a mentoring team to assist with the recruitment and retention of members. We also launched a membership recruiting drive and continued the special discount offer to companies with multiple members.

  • We created a new promotional brochure highlighting the benefits of membership.

  • Several enhancements were made to our Web site, including adding a video of this year's board of directors candidates and the ability to vote for them online. We also introduced the interactive ICPA message board for members. A Web team was developed to tap members for input on enhancing the Web site.

  • In the third quarter of 2003, we launched our first online newsletter to impart association and industry information to our members in a timely manner.

  • We placed continued emphasis on the support and growth of our regional chapters. The Southeast Chapter was launched and their first meeting was a resounding success!

  • We had record attendance at ICPA's 2003 Annual Meeting in Orlando, where the bar was raised again with outstanding quality speakers, educational offerings, and networking events.

  • Our Mentoring Team was instrumental in the success of the First-Time Attendee Support Team (FAST) at this year's annual meeting. We had over 50 first-time planners and more than 100 first-time hospitality partners in attendance.

  • The first Silent Auction was held at the annual meeting with net proceeds of $37,000 going to the Foundation for Osceola Education Inc., a nonprofit organization dedicated to supporting the efforts of students and teachers.

So where do we go from here? During 2004, ICPA's board of directors will focus on marketing the value of ICPA by quantifying the total spend of our members' businesses. Our hospitality partners need to know the total worth of the business generated by the insurance and financial services community so they, in turn, can educate their senior executives on the value of continued support of this market.

Second, ICPA will continue the growth and development of our regional chapters to help our members stay ahead in a quickly changing business environment.

Third, we will focus on membership development. We need to continue our efforts to further penetrate the financial services industry to recruit new members to the association.

Fourth, we will continue to develop and enhance our Web site based on input from the Web team in order to disseminate important and valuable information to our membership in a timely manner.

It is the Board's hope that the strategic direction the association is taking in 2004 and beyond will help our members rise to the continuing challenges of our profession. We cannot do it without the input and involvement of our members. I encourage each member to become actively involved, openly share ideas, and offer feedback. We will become a stronger association because of it.

Best wishes for a very successful 2004!
Debbie Boschee, CMP
Director, Conference and Meeting Services
Prudential Financial

A Banner Meeting

A RECORD NUMBER of attendees were at the Gaylord Palms Resort and Convention Center in Orlando, Fla., November 2 to 6 for ICPA's Annual Meeting. The 200 planners and 340 hospitality partners were realistic about current industry challenges but hopeful about the future. Asked in an audience-response session if their companies expected business to grow, remain flat, or decrease in 2004, 74 percent of planners said they expected business to grow.

Announced at the meeting: Las Vegas and Caesars Palace hotel will host ICPA in 2006. The 2004 annual meeting will be held at the Grand Wailea Resort, Maui, Hawaii, November 14 to 18.

This year's attendees were kept busy with educational sessions on industry issues, motivational speakers, and networking events. Once again, emcee Dale Irvin delighted the audience with his hilarious summaries of conference happenings.

It was an emotional moment when Kenneth Smith, an Osceola, Fla., County commissioner, accepted a $37,000 check for the Foundation for Osceola Education, raised by ICPA's first-time silent auction. “I expected $500,” said Smith in a tear-choked voice. “This is absolutely unbelievable.” The foundation buys scholarships for at-risk students at discounted rates, so the real buying power of the money will jump to about $70,000. Hats off to HP Committee member Todd Gagnon, Caesars Palace, for coming up with the idea, and to Gagnon and Chris Gilbert, Kiawah Island Golf Resort, for organizing a silent auction that exceeded expectations.

Thanks also goes to all the terrific sponsors of the 2003 meeting. For a complete list, and links to their Web sites, go to

Take-Home Tidbits

HERE ARE SOME standout tips on procurement, total value, terrorism, and negotiation, overheard at the ICPA Annual Meeting discussion session moderated by Mike Murphy, vice president, sales and marketing, Renaissance Hotels & Resorts; and Steve Clark, CMP, representing CUNA Mutual.

  • Procurement in the Mix?

    Some planners and hoteliers reported increasing involvement of procurement and legal departments in the meeting and incentive buying process, sometimes as partners, sometimes more like competitors. “We have a partnership with procurement,” said Kim DeVillers, first vice president, Countrywide Financial, in Calabasas, Calif. “Every contract with hotels, DMCs, or speakers has to go through procurement. We had to do it, so we decided to embrace it and do it proactively. We make sure to type in the value and cost savings [in meeting documentation] so that senior management knows it is the planner saving money, not the procurement department.”

    Still, Ken Juel, manager, sales incentives and recognition programs, Mutual of Omaha, Omaha, Neb., warned his fellow planners: “You're the experts, not the legal people and not the procurement people. If you're educating them on contracts, I believe you're giving your job away.”

  • Do You Know Your Total Value?

    You should! That's what sets you apart when you're sitting at the negotiating table with a hotelier. Your total value is more than what you spend on rooms and meal functions. Make sure you also know what “incremental revenue” your group will bring to the hotel. “If you have that information, it's golden for us, as it allows us to offer the best value to the group,” says Paul Canez, senior account executive at the Starr Pass Marriott Resort & Spa, opening in Tucson in December 2004. Incremental revenue is what your attendees spend on their own at a resort. “This is mostly in reference to food and beverage in restaurants and use of the mini-bar,” Canez explains. “It can also include spa services and golf or tennis; however the majority of guest spend that is not group-related is in food and beverage.”

    How to get the numbers? Canez suggests coordinating with the hotel's accounting department ahead of your program to get the amounts from individual guest folios.

  • The Impact of Terrorism

    Give senior management a reality check. One planner had a program set to begin in Australia when the Iraq war started. Senior management wanted to cancel, but the planner held fast, arguing that Australia has no history of terrorism. The meeting went forward.

  • Must-Ask Hotel Negotiation Questions

    How do you know the room rate you've been given by a hotel is in the right ballpark for that property? Take a tip from David Smart, director, convention and travel department, Alfa Insurance in Montgomery, Ala., and get a few numbers from your salesperson.

Smart asks for the hotel's projected average rate for the year, the achieved average rate for the past 12 months, the projected average rate over the time period he is seeking space, and the achieved average rate over that time period during the previous year. These numbers aren't proprietary, but Smart often has trouble getting them. “The hotel wants all my revenue information, credit history, where I've been in previous years, but often is not willing to be straight with the information I need,” he notes.

Another question to ask the hotel: What is your relationship with your owners? “You've got the owner, investors, and the management company, and you can often have a contentious relationship in that triangle,” Smart explains. “You want to know what might be happening” [when your meeting is on site]. While you might not get the whole truth, asking the question at least puts the hotel on notice that the issue is on your radar screen.
Regina Baraban and Alison Hall

Meet the 2004 Board and HP Committee

At ICPA's 2003 Annual Meeting, Ken Juel, Mutual of Omaha, passed the president's gavel to Debbie Boschee, CMP, Prudential Financial. Two new Board members were elected: Michael Burke, CMP, Allmerica Financial, who will serve as vice president, treasurer; and Catherine Wittke, CMP, Manulife Financial, who will serve as vice president, membership. Leaving the board was Brett Barrowman, American Fidelity Group (immediate past president), and Michael Key, CMP, Monumental Life Insurance Co. (former vice president, treasurer). John Touchette, CMP, John Hancock Financial Services, was named president-elect.

The Hospitality Partners committee welcomed two new members: Kevin Rosa, The Sagamore; and Tina Strauss, the New York Marriott Marquis. Grant Snider, JPdL Destination Management, was named 2004 chairperson. Leaving the committee was Joe Critelli, Omni Orlando Resort at Champions Gate, and Chris Gilbert, Kiawah Island Resorts.

January/February 2004

The Official Newsletter of the ICPA, an association of insurance and financial services conference planners