Two pieces of information collided on my desktop this week. A news release about the American Society of Association Executives' new in-depth study of nondues revenues touted meetings as the top revenue generator in this category. Also on my desktop: Job Outlook 2003 (see page 10). The article reports a wave of downsizing andof association meeting planning departments, with many senior-level planners being replaced by “admin people.” Putting the management of in the hands of amateurs is surely one of the stupidest things an association can do to its own bottom line. Welcome to 2003.
I wish our special report on trends in the association meetings marketplace had more cheery news to report, but in practically every component we examine, there's a crisis going on. One has to wonder where the voice of leadership is for our industry. PCMA, MPI, ASAE seem mired in internal affairs at a time when we need clear-sighted solutions — or at least an articulation of the problems our industry faces. CIC is busy putting the finishing touches on a 2,500-word glossary of industry terms, which will be great for those of us who do not know what a “steamship round” is — but not much help in the current crisis. Talk about not being able to see the forest for the trees. Only IAEM has exhibited leadership in its efforts to get show organizers, exhibitors, and contractors in the same room to talk about controlling costs and serving attendees better.
The survivability of the profession of meeting planning should be at the top of the discussion list for the January PCMA and MPI conferences, and for the ASAE and IAEM conferences later in the year. There is no doubt that associations are facing a fiscal crisis, but gutting convention anddepartments will only exacerbate the problem. The hotel industry has its part to play as well: Associations are bread-and-butter business for many properties, yet at many of these same properties the group rate is the highest average rate being paid (see “Buyer's Market with a Twist,” page 22.). Hotels need to get control of the pricing of their product, which has gotten out of their control because of the proliferation of discount Web reservation sites. Let's all get on the same page: Association meetings is a business no one can afford to bungle or lose.