WE'RE STARTING THE YEAR with an issue packed with good news — and there's a lot to go around these days.

In our annual Incentive Trends Survey on page 38, you'll find that companies are spending more per person on their programs compared to years past ($2,651 on average). In our cover story on the impact of the new Bush Administration on our industry (page 12), there's good news about the rebound of the hotel industry from Bjorn Hanson, lodging consultant with PricewaterhouseCoopers. “After 9/11, when things got so bad, it was just — ‘Don't travel,’” Christie Hicks, senior vice president of global sales, North America, Starwood Hotels and Resorts, told Senior Writer Dave Kovaleski for his article on page 27. “Now it's ‘Travel carefully,’ ‘Travel if you must,’ ‘Travel with appropriate expenses’ — but they're not saying, ‘Don't travel.’”

And travel they are, according to several incentive pros I interviewed for the article on page 35. “The surge in interest in international programs over the last three to four months is beyond optimistic,” Mark Bondy, president, VIKTOR Incentives & Meetings, told me.

Yet as positive as I want to be, there's a little voice inside telling me it's not all so rosy. Perhaps it's my inherent cynicism. Perhaps it's the result of years of being in this unpredictable business. Or perhaps it's the outpouring of response we got from last month's cover story about a recently laid-off meeting planner, in which readers told about the stress they've felt from losing their jobs. In the midst of all this optimism are many downsized planners searching for jobs, meeting departments that have been cut back to the point of ridiculousness, and people who are maxed out from picking up the slack.

Meeting Professionals International's Colin Rorrie echoes my sentiments in an interview he did with Staff Writer Michael Bassett on page 25.

“Our members are still being asked to do more with less,” he said, adding that the increasing demand for ROI is putting an extra burden on planners. They're also being asked to work more closely with procurement — another new stress that isn't going away.

So I'm starting the new year feeling mildly optimistic about our industry's recovery — but never losing sight of how the landscape has changed for you. Here's to things improving in '05.
Barbara Scofidio

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