The meetings, incentives, convention, and exhibition industry, referred to as the MICE industry outside of the U.S. and Canada, has gathered together to launch "the industry fights back" campaign. Spearheaded by Reed Travel Exhibitions, the for-profit tradeshow company that organizes several large travel trade industry shows, including EIBTM and the World Travel Market, the campaign is designed to bring a unified approach to getting business and people back on the road and to meetings, trade shows, and events.

Tom Nutley, managing director of Reed, called a meeting of the key meeting industry associations on November 13 in London, during World Travel Market week. Attending were representatives of ICCA, The International Meetings Association, based in Amsterdam, The Netherlands; Meeting Professionals International, based in Dallas; the Society of Incentive Travel Executives, based in New York; and several representatives from Reed. They are also members of another coalition called JMIC, the Joint Meeting Industry Council, comprised of some 13 international associations. Another U.S. based association and member of the JMIC is the International Association of Convention and Visitor Bureaus, based in Washington, D.C. It is expected that larger and more financially able associations, such as ICCA, MPI, SITE, and IACVB will take the lead and pool their resources to support a global "fight back" campaign.

The meeting was held to review and discuss each others’ best practices in dealing with the 9/11 aftermath and its global impact, particularly the drop in travel. Tom Hulton, president of ICCA, reported on his association’s annual conference held just one week previously in Cancun, Mexico. From that conference came a position statement for the industry, which clearly distinguishes the difference between the meetings business and tourism to the general press and public.

He also volunteered ICCA to be responsible for additional information gathering for the industry since it already collects data on international congresses, including those put on by U.S. associations with international membership. MPI’s Ian Dockrill, executive vice president of global & chapter development, agreed to share and develop best practice modules and statistics for the industy to use.

Dockrill also reported on the foundation summit held by the U.S. meeting industry associations in New York in late October, which produced a nine-point action plan to respond to the after effects of 9/11 on the meetings industry. Those present embraced that plan, and Dockrill is to report back to the group when it convenes next, during CONFEX in London, which action points could use the coalition’s help and resources.

They also agreed that positive messages about traveling and meeting face-to-face needed to be portrayed in the general media. A PR and advertising campaign, spearheaded by JMIC;s cousin in the U.S. , the Convention Industry Council, had already begun. It is expected to communicate to the general public and corporate America that meeting face-to-face is still the best way to do business.

Shortly after the meeting, Sandie McCoubrey, marketing manager, EIBTM, sent out a call to action letter to editors of meeting magazines and others. "It is clear that we must take action immediately to stop the devastating economic fallout of these terrorist acts. We cannot allow these criminals to claim a victory against the citizens of the world.

"I am urging business executives, employees, and colleagues to fight back against economic terrorism. Get back on planes; hold your incentive programs and business meetings as planned," she wrote. "Now, more than ever, we need to spur sales and productivity efforts and bolster employee morale.

"Government leaders have urged us to return to ‘business as usual,’ and the incentive and business travel industries stand ready to serve corporations when they need it most. I encourage business leaders around the world to demonstrate the same sense of resolve."

Reed Travel, which organizes EIBTM, agreed to be spokesperson and point person in Europe for the fight back campaign and to use its Web site to post releases from all associations.

Dockrill added that he was encouraged by a couple of things in late November. "First, The World Travel Market was just like any other year. The aisles were full. I’m sure attendance was down, but it wasn’t as down as ITME had been in October. It is a different market, however, the leisure market as opposed to the meetings market.

"The other encouraging sign we see is that from our regular surveys of our MPI members, the rate of cancellations has curtailed," he said.