It’s difficult to read the headlines these days and and not see news of horrific weather-related disasters, from floods in the Gulf region to historic numbers of tornadoes cutting a swath through the very heart of the U.S. (and even in my home state of Massachusetts). They follow the most devastating disaster this young decade has seen, Japan’s tsunami and ensuing nuclear meltdown. The scenes of carnage seem interchangeable.
News of bad weather makes bigger headlines when large, urban centers are affected. But the stories behind the tornadoes in Joplin, Mo., just 100 miles from popular meeting center Branson; or in the university town of Tuscaloosa, Ala., where meeting planning curriculum is being taught at the University of Alabama, are made more personal by reflections of those we know.
Sometimes I think what we do in the meeting planning industry seems quite insignificant in comparison to what the people in these devastated regions must do just to survive day to day.
Then I remember that tourism can help lift cities and towns out of economic decline. It can create jobs and, dare I say, hope. I’m just back from IMEX, a global meetings Wild Card program, in which emerging destinations that haven’t exhibited at a meeting show before compete for free booth space, putting these relatively unknown destinations on the meetings industry map.held in Frankfurt (where the Japanese exhibited in full force). I witnessed the success of its annual
I also remind myself that the hospitality industry gives plenty of comfort to those in need: Hotels and convention centers sometimes become staging areas for rescue operations or offer temporary room and board. Several of Tokyo’s hotels have become public shelters to help cope with the influx of displaced people, according to STR Global. The Minneapolis Convention Center organized a daylong food drive to benefit those who lost shelter during a tornado that tore through its city.
Association meeting professionals, while not trained in disaster and emergency relief efforts, are educated in the operations and logistics behind large events. You are also capable of harnessing the power of volunteers. Perhaps most important, your skills can be used to organize fundraising or socially responsible events, which can be a huge boost to communities that are most in need.
So while some might be drawn to our industry by the idea of planning the next great royal wedding, others might be attracted by the opportunity to serve—if even in a small way—in a humanitarian capacity.
Please share your story about helping those in need, however small or big, with us.