The 250 meeting planning and destination management company executives huddled around tables at Washington, D.C.'s J.W. Marriott one weekend in June were doing more than planning their next event: They were plotting how to survive and thrive in the new “meeting” economy.

An imaginative mixture of education, networking, and sheer play, the Fifth Annual Global Events Partners Retreat brought together corporate and association planners, third-party event and incentive planners, and DMCs for the three-day event, co-hosted by the Marriott and Williard Inter-Continental Hotel. Eighty representatives from 48 DMCs, based all over the world, belong to Washington, D.C.-based GEP, a partnership network.

Some of the DMCs came from the Middle East (Turkey and Egypt, for example), realizing that while U.S. group business was off, the travel and meetings business is cyclical. Other DMCs, such as Conventus of Switzerland, Russkie Prostori of St. Petersburg, Russia, and Havas of Brazil, have actually seen an uptick in U.S. meeting travel since 9/11. Domestically, Glenn Allison of Mana, Allison in San Francisco, Scott White of The Event Network in Washington, D.C., and Phelps Hope of Absolutely Atlanta happily reported a much better than expected 2002.

Chris White, CEO of GEP and its sister site selection company, Krisam, moved the retreat to Washington after 9/11 as a way to showcase the capital. Attendees experienced venues often reserved for the crème de la crème of the meeting and event scene, such as the Library of Congress, Smithsonian National Museum of Natural History, and the Kennedy Center.