The U.S. Travel Association will lead an initiative to convince members of Congress of the importance of meetings to their districts and to the nation’s economy as a whole.
“We are targeting 43 members of Congress, based on a variety of factors, including the importance of meetings in their business,” said Erik Hansen, director of domestic policy for U.S. Travel. “The goal of this campaign is to build new champions.
“Our hope is that the next time there is a crisis, as there was in 2009, we will be able to quickly react with people who have the facts. We will have people ready to go and who will be aware of the importance of meetings.”
Meeting with representatives
Hansen, along with other representatives of U.S. Travel and constituents, including meeting planners and hoteliers, will meet representatives in the near future.
“We will be working with other associations to get their constituents on board, to put a local face on this. We’re not the huge overarching industry that doesn’t have a presence locally. We are the home businesses.
“And we’re not just talking about jobs; we’re talking about values. We are the facilitators of both economic growth and best practices.
“When you have people meeting face-to-face at a large convention or trade show they are educating themselves, learning how to become better employees and how to grow their businesses.”
Proof of importance
U.S. Travel also will be sending quarterly reports to their congressional districts on the performance of the meetings sector, providing the legislators with proof of the importance of meetings.
“We have a great audience in the Congress members,” said Hansen. “If you told them they would have to rely on teleconferenced committee or constituent meetings, they would not like the idea.”
Drop-ins at meetings
In fact, said Hansen, U.S. Travel is seeking to organize drop-ins by Congress members at meetings, to “get back-of-the-house tours, meet the people who make the meetings run and see how many jobs are created.”
Aside from being able to react to negative situations, said Hansen, “We would like these legislators to be proactive in helping their convention facilities and hotels get business. We want them to make the economic environment in their districts better for the travel industry.”
Power of Travel Coalition
This effort is part of a lead-up to a broader project called Vote Travel, to be rolled out later this year. Vote Travel will incorporate a number of platforms to create awareness of the importance of travel and to insure that lawmakers sympathetic to the industry’s issues are elected.
Meanwhile, said Hansen, planners should sign up on Power of Travel Coalition, so that if “something else happens like in 2009, we will be able to put out that fire. We are not always able to reach the people who in turn will reach out to their lawmakers.
“Meeting planners are the most capable of telling the story; their voice is the most powerful.”