Monday, March 16, 2009

Meetings Mean Business

Business travel has been getting beat up a lot lately here in the U.S. It is almost daily I hear about a member of Congress proposing travel restrictions on firms that receive stimulus or bailout money, or I see a pundit bashing firms for going on corporate retreats when their stocks are in the dumps. While I think everyone understands the need to cut down on costs when money is tight, it seems business travel has gotten an especially bad reputation for being frivolous and unnecessary lately.

To combat these misconceptions, the U.S. Travel Association (formerly known as the Travel Industry Association, or TIA) has created a campaign called Meetings Mean Business. U.S. Travel is encouraging members of the travel and tourism industries—and those who support them—to talk to their friends, the media, and lawmakers about the benefits of travel.

Some facts: Did you know business travel creates 2.4 million jobs in the U.S.? Business travel accounts for $240 billion in spending and $39 billion in tax revenue at the federal, state, and local levels. Unfortunately, nearly 200,000 travel-related jobs were lost in 2008, and the U.S. departments of Labor and Commerce predict another 247,000 will be lost in 2009. Meetings Mean Business aims to protect the millions of American jobs that depend on business meetings and events.

The campaign is starting to get attention: this week, President Obama expressed support for business travel after a meeting with 12 prominent CEOs representing the travel industry (including Jim Atchison of Busch Entertainment, Tom Williams of Universal Parks and Resorts, and Jay Rasulo of Walt Disney Parks and Resorts). Additionally, the campaign's message has been picked up by major media outlets such as Fortune Magazine, the Orlando Sentinal, and the Economist.

If you're interested in participating in the campaign, the Meetings Mean Business Action Center has information on the economic benefits of travel, pre-written letters to Congress, sample letters to the editor, talking points, and more. I hope IAAPA members will check out the site and make use of its resources.

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