Congress Is Fighting Meetings Blacklisting – Proof That Grassroots Lobbying Works!

Ever since the U.S. Travel Association uncovered the practice by some federal agencies of "blacklisting" resort destinations for business meetings (and the Wall Street Journalstory about it),  I've been pleased to see that our industry, and Congressional representatives of these unfairly targeted destinations, aren't taking this lying down.  There’s been a ton of rhetoric and pushback generated by folks directly impacted by the blacklisting and a lot of buzz online via blogs (like yours truly) and columnists.
In "The Hill's Congress Blog," Florida Senator Bill Nelson vents his feelings about how much harm this is doing to his state. He notes, for example, that Orlando hotels are at 64.8 percent occupancy, down 7.8 percent from a year ago. "Look, it’s one thing to avoid non-essential trips to save taxpayers money," Nelson says. "I can understand that. But like I told an Associated Press reporter, 'It’s another thing if it’s legitimate travel and you then avoid certain cities just because of where they are.'"

More importantly, Nelson and fellow Florida Senator, Republican Mel Martinez, are supporting legislation that would prohibit this practice. It was introduced by Nevada's Democratic Senator, Harry Reid, and is known as the "Protecting Resort Cities from Discrimination act of 2009."

Elsewhere, House leaders have requested a Government Accountability Office investigation, and in a BTNarticle, U.S. Travel Association SVP of Public Affairs Geoff Freeman said: "...we're not going to rest until the policies are changed."

And I thought it was particularly powerful--and somewhat ironic--that our side had a chance to point out the face-to-face value of a recent Obama administration cabinet retreat. Said U.S. Travel Association president Roger Dow: "Face-to-face meetings are often the most productive ways to strengthen relationships, develop strategies, increase productivity and achieve organizational goals. "We applaud the Obama Administration for employing this productive and proven technique to enhance its activities."

Bravo to the U.S. Travel Association for making this situation known to us all, and I'm glad to see Congress quickly taking a stance on the issue.

Feel like Las Vegas, Orlando and Miami are getting raw deals just because of their locations? As taxpayers and meeting industry professionals, you can help protect travel industry jobs and promote common-sense meetings purchasing practices (Hey, these cities are offering some of the best sleeping and meeting room discounts these days!).  Why not add your voice to the growing chorus of criticism of these government blacklists and write a letter to your congressional representatives? You'll be doing yourself and a lot of hard-working travel industry employees a great favor.

Kevin Iwamoto is vice president of enterprise strategy at StarCite. This post is syndicated from his blog, Strategic Meetings Management.