Some destinations are fighting back against the negative perception of meetings and incentives, including Minnesota, where Gov. Tim Pawlenty introduced a new meetings marketing campaign; and Spokane, Wash., where industry supporters took to the streets.

On Friday, September 6, the Spokane Convention and Visitors Bureau hosted a rally in downtown Spokane where more than 200 elected officials, business owners, and hospitality-industry employees showed their support for meetings. Participants wore pins and carried signs that said, “Meetings Mean Business.” The Spokane area hosted 162 meetings last year, with an economic impact of $198 million.

The Spokane CVB has been involved in some creative partnerships to boost its profile. Just recently, it partnered with the Seattle CVB to create a new Web site, Whytourismmatters.com. It also has a marketing partnership with Hartford, Conn., and Madison, Wis., allowing meeting planners to receive discounts if they book meetings at any two of the three destinations.

At a press conference last Wednesday, Minnesota Gov. Tim Pawlenty and representatives from Explore Minnesota introduced a new marketing campaign called Meet in Minnesota. The campaign is designed to promote the state as a meetings destination and to encourage local companies and organization to hold meetings at home in Minnesota.

Hospitality is an $11 billion industry in the state, accounting for 15 percent of sales tax revenues and 11 percent of jobs. Also, 20 percent of hotel room nights are sold to meetings and convention guests. At the press conference, Pawlenty cited the importance of meetings to the state’s economy.

In a March 5 editorial that appeared in the Philadelphia Daily News, Nick DeBenedictis, chairman of the Philadelphia CVB, sounded a similar chord. “I call on all business leaders in this region: This is the year to bring, or keep, meetings and conventions home in Philadelphia,” DeBenectis wrote. About 40 percent of the city’s hotel room nights are booked by meeting attendees, he stated. Ultimately, meeting-related activities stimulate the economy and help maintain and increase jobs in the hospitality industry,” he wrote.