The Hospitality Sales & Marketing Association International (HSMAI) and the New York University Tisch Center for Hospitality, Tourism and Travel Administration’s "Executive Think" interactive conference on October 17 in New York City gave more than a state of the industry report. It also attempted to strategize ways in which the beleaguered travel and tourism industry could survive the aftermath of the September 11 terrorist attacks.

Attended by 241 industry executives and held at the Marriott Marquis, the seminar was co-chaired by Robert A. Gilbert, president and CEO of HSMAI, and Dr. Lalia Rach, dean of the Tisch Center at NYU.

Entitled Industry in Crisis: Alternative Strategy Conference, it began with Jonathan Tisch, chairman and CEO of Loews Hotels and chairman of the Travel Business Roundtable (TBR), who gave some compelling figures on the present state of travel and tourism. He added that the key states being hurt include New York, California, Florida, Illinois, Nevada, and Hawaii, where travel dominates those state’s economies. (Click on the Hotels/CVBs tab for more information.)

Travel Incentives
Members of the TBR met with senators and congressional leaders in early October (see related Web article, TBR asks Congress to take action, 10/15/01) and made the following recommendations to help the travel industry and to encourage people to travel again.

  • Tax relief and other initiatives to stimulate economic growth

  • Restoration of business meal and entertainment deduction to 100 percent

  • Tax credit for personal or business travel

  • Temporary suspension of payroll taxes for employers and employees

  • Re-introduction of spousal travel deductions for meetings and conventions

Promoting the World’s Number One Brand
TBR also asked for the creation of a Presidential Advisory Council on travel and tourism and to develop a national tourism policy to promote travel to the United States. Tisch noted, "We spend no dollars promoting the number one brand in the world." Tisch applauded the efforts of TIA (Travel Industry Association of America) to promote the United States as a destination. In the keynote luncheon address, Betsy O'Rourke, senior vice president, marketing for TIA, unveiled the organization's new marketing initiative, "See America," which promotes travel within the U.S. and to the U.S. from international markets.

Meetings Business
Mary Power, president of the Convention Industry Council, has helped associations and companies move canceled inventory. "We are now working on attrition and we are heavily promoting that it's safe to travel. "Meetings and conventions are a way to bring people together and to make up for lots of individual sales trips," she said, adding: "One of the challenges we face is that news media are telling everyone that people are not traveling. We have to get the message out that meetings are going on and meetings and conventions are a great way to reinforce the right to travel and meet."

Susan Sarfarti, CAE, president and CEO of GWSAE said that the concept of associations, which is to bring people together, is more important than ever. She said that people want to get together and associations help them realize this with the value of "high touch." Safarti added, "meetings will always be here."

Group Business Travel Solutions
The participants came up with the following solutions:

1. Communicate measures that have been taken to increase safety; communicate that there is a crisis plan in place.

2. Let meeting planners know of deals through CVBs, newsletters, web sites, and direct marketing.

3. Have a deeper understanding of customer issues such as the return on time investment.

4. Look at partnerships including local partners not normally involved in national promotions such as local florists, restaurants, and other regional marketers.

Said John Russell, chairman of the American Hotel & Lodging Association: "Let’s fight terrorism with tourism."