Ten years ago, immediately following the beginning of the Great Recession, our industry was under attack by the media for some incentive meetings being held at luxurious venues. One of the meetings became so notorious that the impact on perception continues to be referred to as “The AIG Effect.” Even the U.S. President advised against attending such “boondoggles,” and advised to stay away from one of our most popular American destinations. It was devastating to many and impacted the entire industry!
Our industry was caught flat-footed and was not prepared to defend itself against such attacks. There was little industry data. Each industry association did its own thing; there was not much collaboration going on. We knew about each other and what our organizations did on behalf of the industry. But there was limited cohesiveness and alignment.
When all the “stuff” was hitting the fan, I received calls from members and hospitality partners asking what FICP was going to do about it. Like everyone else, we were unprepared. On the one hand, FICP’s purpose is to educate meetings professionals how to do their jobs better. We were not an advocacy organization. We simply did not have an advocacy competency, nor did many within our field.
Thankfully, the U.S. Travel Association and several other powerful industry leaders stepped forward and formed the Meetings Mean Business Coalition (MMBC) to unite the industry, gather data and educate media and legislative officials about the value of meetings. In fact, we have proved that meetings really do mean business! The industry came together and set out to prove it.
Fast forward to today.
In 2016, FICP revised its mission and created a new vision to amplify the positive impact and value of financial and insurance industry meetings professionals. This paved the way for the association to play a larger role in the meetings and events industry by sharing our thought leaders for the greater good of the industry, enabling them to demonstrate their value and professionalism, and helping them to deliver more value to their employers. We raised the bar to a new level.
This propelled FICP to become a member of the MMBC in 2017 so we could stand together with all of the other leading industry associations and organizations. Joining MMBC also gave me a seat on the U.S. Travel Association’s Board of Directors.
While our industry has not been tested like in 2008 (knock on wood), we have come a long way. We now have data through the completion of two Economic Significance Studies, thanks to our membership, support and participation in the Events Industry Council. Through the MMBC, we have a strategy to address the next industry challenge. And, there is trust and camaraderie among our organizations. We know each other much better today; in fact, I consider many to be friends.
Earlier this summer, I attended meetings of these organizations. Following is a recap to illustrate where we are today.
U.S. Travel Association
U.S. Travel represents the collective strength of more than 1,200 member organizations growing the $1 trillion U.S. travel industry. Their mission is to increase travel to and within the United States. According to their research, the travel industry generates $2.4 trillion in economic output and supports 15.6 million American jobs. Although FICP represents a small slice of this impact, we are a part of something really big and important, and our niche is among the most impactful, respected and coveted sectors.
U.S. Travel has robust advocacy agenda that currently focuses on:
U.S. Travel’s goals are 1) to promote globalization over isolation; 2) ensure the U.S. remains a secure, welcoming destination for international and domestic travelers; and 3) ensure that travel is essential to the economy, business and cultural understanding. This last goal is the link to the Meetings Mean Business Coalition.
Finally, U.S. Travel is an advocate for the Project Time Off program that encourages people to take their vacation time and travel. About 52% of Americans do not use all of their time off, leaving 705 million days on the table with about $255 billion in missed economic opportunity that would create 1.9 million jobs. The message: take your PTO!
While many of U.S. Travel’s initiatives are focused on individual travel FICP’s primary benefits are that we are part of the bigger picture, informed about important issues, and are linked with a huge advocacy arm that has tons of expertise and feet on the street in Washington, D.C.
Meetings Mean Business Coalition
The MMBC is building an army of supporters ready to be activated the next time our industry is attacked. FICP is helping to identify executives within our member companies who are willing to speak out on the value of meetings and events. Please let me know if an executive in your company would be willing to go on camera and speak to the merits and business importance of face-to-face meetings.
We will ask contacts at these organizations, and also organizations selected from the technology and health care sectors, to participate in 15 to 20-minute interviews. The goal of the interviews is to understand what’s most important to business leaders in each industry so that we can engage them in more targeted ways and recruit them as champions for face-to-face meetings and events.
Other activities of the coalition include:
- Promoting and expanding Global Meetings Industry Day (GMID).
- Reframing the Worth Meeting About constituent campaign targeting policymakers in target districts.
- Promoting the Events Industry Council (EIC) Economic Significance Study using key facts and explainer videos for specific audience segments.
What’s Next? A Call to Action
- Become more informed about the travel agenda policies. Support these initiatives by speaking with executives about how they may impact your company, its meetings, and ultimately its strategic priorities.
- Help me identify and recruit the financial and insurance industry’s most dynamic, articulate and passionate executives who can speak credibly to the importance face-to-face meetings have within your business.
- Access the MMBC toolkit and use the information to arm yourself with important information about the meetings industry – perhaps for one-on-one conversations with your company executives.
- Become an advocate for the meetings industry.
- Take your vacation time – you’ve worked hard and earned it!
Finally, please offer feedback on how I can continue to represent FICP and our industry so we can continue to carry a collective voice. Also, let me know how you are advocating to your upper management the value of business travel and its positive impact on the bottom line of your company – and what tools you may need to be more effective.
Steve Bova, CAE