Experts from the airline, hotel, and security industries were taking heed of the theme for Meeting Professionals International’s 2002 World Education Conference: "Looking Forward." The past 12 months were unprecedented for those industries. The conference took place at the Metro Toronto Convention Centre, Toronto, Ontario, Sunday through Tuesday.

"We’re calling it ‘The Perfect Storm,’" said Daniel Walsh, vice president of North American Sales, United Airlines, one of several panelists in a state of the industry forum presented at the conference. A combination of 9/11 and the stumbling economy drop-kicked the airline industry. Walsh expects the industry to lose a combined $4 billion in 2002. Passengers, however, have enjoyed a buyer’s market. Prices are down and will remain down for the forseeable future, Walsh said.

And further good news for passengers: "Airline operation and performance has dramatically changed. The consumer experience is better than ever. People are more patient, they’re getting to the airport earlier—even though most waits are returning to pre-9/11 times—there’s been good weather, flights are on time, and baggage performance (lost luggage) has been great."

In 2000, the hotel industry recorded a banner year. In 2001, Q4 saw a 35 percent decrease in revenue performance. "It was unprecedented," said David Johnson, executive VP and chief marketing officer for Wyndham International. Things are looking up, though. Year to date, hotels have seen revenue performance in the double digits, and 2003 is giving off encouraging signs. "Lead times have shrunk (for meetings), and tentative business is increasing," said Johnson.

The security industry recorded 300 percent growth, though numbers are down for Q3 and 4. "We’ve been beating the drum for years," said Kevin Wilson, VP and director of operations, national and international, Allied Intelligence Inc. "Not every meeting requires security, though. It’s all about threat assessment. Meeting planners need someone with their finger on the pulse of things."