Leaders from across the meetings industry have announced their intention 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, the last one in 2005, it is believed to be the first time leaders from all branches of the industry have collaborated with the goal of lobbying the White House and Congress, and communicating with the public on the size of the meetings industry and its importance to the overall economy.
The meeting took place at the Professional Convention Management Association annual convention in New Orleans in January and was attended by leaders from nine associations and two industry supplier organizations: PCMA, the Convention Industry Council, Meeting Professionals International, the U.S. Travel Association (formerly Travel Industry Association), the National Business Travel Association, Destination Marketing Association International, Site (formerly the Society of Incentive and Travel Executives), the International Association of Exhibitions and Events, the Association of Corporate Travel Executives, Maritz, and Freeman.
The meeting was sparked by the bad press that the meetings and incentives industry has seen as a result of recent bank bailouts and, specifically, the AIG incentive trips that provoked outrage. The industry was caught flat-footed by the criticism because it didn't have the research to combat negative reports, explained Christine Duffy, president, Maritz Travel Co. “We don't want to find ourselves in that position again.”
“We all agree that this isn't a turf issue. This is an industry issue,” said PCMA President and CEO Deborah Sexton, who announced the research initiative at a press conference at the PCMA convention. Among those joining her to make the announcement were Duffy; Bruce McMillan, president and CEO, MPI; John Graham, president and CEO, ASAE; Roger Dow, president and CEO, USTA; and Gregg Talley, chief executive, Talley Management Group.
The group has agreed to work together to produce the comprehensive research report and has arranged to meet again in late January to begin to hammer out the details. Results from that meeting weren't available at press time.
The plan, at this point, is to retain a research firm to complete an economic impact study in a year to 18 months. The group hopes to publish some results as they become available, perhaps releasing selected data every few months over the course of the study.