I watched a lot of TV shows growing up in the sixties, a decidedly American pastime, but I consider myself fortunate that, as “Ozzie and Harriet” (a huge hit at the time) as my family was, my parents instilled in me an appreciation of all things foreign. It was my first trip overseas, in the 1970s, with my French class during my senior year of high school, when I discovered Paris and the south of France. I even enjoyed that first transatlantic flight, mesmerized by the multiple channels and audio recordings available to me by plugging earphones into my armrest and listening to songs that I didn't know — but whose lyrics I would memorize — before the long flight was over. And I will never, ever forget my first walk down the Champs-Élysées or my first climb up the steps of Sacré Cœur in Montmartre.
That trip served me well when I landed a job as a cub reporter at Travel Agent magazine in my 20s. I made next to nothing, but during my first year, I went on at least eight press trips, visiting Switzerland, Hong Kong, England, Spain, and Aruba, among other destinations. My love of international travel was cemented.
I think international sensibilities helped shape my understanding of and appreciation for the meetings industry, which is not all about travel or tourism, but about connecting, communicating, educating, and driving business. Business travel nowadays is hardly glamorous. On the other hand, it affords many of us opportunities to see places we never would have otherwise visited. I feel extremely fortunate in that respect.
In economics, conventional wisdom says that the hospitality industry — and therefore the meetings industry — is a lagging indicator. While theindustry has been lagging in the international arena, I think it's now a leading indicator — that is, it is changing and rebounding before the meetings industry as a whole.
In the last few years, I've seen U.S.-centric associations spread their wings and become truly global, reaching out to find new members all over the world and creating events and education for them, too. Of course, we saw the vulnerability of globalization this spring when associations' attendees, exhibitors, and speakers were grounded by the volcanic ash cloud over northern Europe, but there are so many more positives than negatives to going global.
Follow the trend toward going international, and other trends, in our first-ever think-tank issue. We've invited some provocateurs to give us cause to pause, think, and envision where association meetings could or should be. Visit meetingsnet.com/thinktank to comment.