New oversight regulations for financial institutions that receive money from the U.S. Treasury Department’s Troubled Asset Relief Program has the meetings industry speaking out to defend the value of conferences and events. In addition to new executive compensation limits, the Treasury has instituted tougher transparency rules on aviation services, office renovations, conferences, events, holiday parties, and other expenses for recipients of the emergency government lending. Company chief executives will be required to certify that spending on meetings and events is not excessive. A coalition of eight meeting and travel industry organizations released a statement arguing that American workers and local communities will be hurt as a result of the new rules. “We are extremely concerned about the unintended consequences of unnecessarily restricting corporate meetings, events, and incentive travel programs,” stated the group in a press release.
The group—which includes the American Hotel and Lodging Association, Destination Marketing Association International, Meeting Professionals International, the National Business Travel Association, the Professional Convention Management Association, the Society of Incentive & Travel Executives, and the U.S. Travel Association—has pledged to continue its campaign for better understanding of the meetings industry.[OK?] “In the coming days, the travel, meetings, and events industries will provide the business community with additional standards for meetings, events and incentives that demand transparency and accountability,” the press release stated. Bruce M. MacMillan, president and CEO of MPI, sent a separate letter to the MPI community (and posted on the MPI blog) looking at the issues. “Obviously this has inflamed an already high level of industry business anxiety,” he wrote. “MPI, along with other meeting and event industry organizations including the U.S. Travel Association, have come together to dialogue directly with the government to ensure the best interests of our members, their businesses, and their communities are not compromised at a time of economic crisis.” MPI opens its MeetDifferent conference on Sunday in Atlanta and plans to devote a portion of the opening general session to the topic, with participation from the president and CEO of the U.S. Travel Association, Roger Dow.