Debbi Beldon, CMP — Experient
Just got back from e4 – what a terrific time we had networking with clients, partners and colleagues. I learned a lot too. For instance, I learned that people really will follow me on Twitter, even though I’m not exactly sure why yet. I learned that I need more than five hours sleep a night and apparently that I get cranky if 45 minutes goes by without eating something. I also learned that it is unwise to drink an entire Diet Coke if the session is going to be 90 minutes long and the bathroom is a mile and a half away.
But seriously, I also had the pleasure of attending the closing general session where we learned from Roger Dow, President and CEO of the US Travel Association about what’s going on with the events industry.
Roger shared a number of interesting facts with us, such as:
- 1 in 8 jobs in the United States are related to travel and tourism
- Meetings and events contribute $101 BILLION in spending in the United States
- A survey of Chief Marketing Officers indicated that meetings offer the highest Return on Investment of any marketing channel
With facts like that, it is shocking to me that our industry is facing such scrutiny. How can people, including our own government not understand how valuable our industry is to the economy of our country? According to Roger, part of the issue is us. He says that “we can no longer afford to play to not get hurt; we have to play to win.” The meetings business is America’s Industry – travel and tourism plays a role in every state.
I was moved by the story of Paco Saldaña. Saldaña, director of guest services at the Ritz-Carlton, Amelia Island, Fla., was chosen by thousands of his peers to be the new ‘Face of Travel.’ More than 16,000 people participated in the Faces of Travel contest creating and voting on hundreds of videos submitted from around the country. Paco Saldaña was selected as the industry spokesperson that embodies the vitality of travel and the importance of increasing travel to and within the United States. Unfortunately, when business meetings and events are cancelled, its people like Saldaña – not corporate CEOs – who pay the highest price.
We must speak out to change the perception of our business. Perception does not pay the electric bill, or feed our families. We are all the “Face of Travel”. So put a “face” on our industry – write letters to elected officials, post articles about the meetings industry on your Facebook page, Linked In, and Twitter. Tell your family, friends and everyone you meet what you do and how important it is to our country and our economy.
“What lies behind us and what lies ahead of us are tiny matters compared to what lives within us.” – Henry David Thoreau