Meeting Destinations: Perception Versus Reality

A  July 22nd Wall Street Journal article revealed that some U.S. government agencies are putting cities like Orlando, Las Vegas and Reno on informal blacklists as meetings destinations. Apparently, these are too vacation- and spa-like, and some government planners instead are being directed to more "buttoned-down" cities that meet three criteria -- those that are in a travel hub, are low in cost and are in a non-resort location, according to the story. [more] 

While the Journal quoted an anonymous government employee who was upset by the policy ("Do you want to take everyone to Fargo in the middle of winter?"), what was more mystifying to me, and to meetings industry representatives also quoted, is that resort and spa locations--hurt by the falloff in travel--are offering some of the best value for meetings and events. This is what Geoff Freeman, SVP of public affairs for the U.S. Travel Association had to say in the story: "We get the sense that these agencies are worried about scrutiny, and in order to avoid criticism from the media they are essentially willing to spend more money and do things that they think will prevent them media scrutiny."

Freeman also added that in this quest to “demonize travel, jobs are being lost” – to the tune of about 1 million, according to the Association, whose "Meetings Mean Business" campaign has done a superb job of lobbying government and business about the importance of business travel and meetings on the economy.

If the old admonition about not judging a book by its cover fits anywhere, it's here. On the face of things, Las Vegas and Orlando may only seem like fun places to visit for vacationers, but they have also invested heavily in their infrastructure and are major destinations for business meetings, conferences and conventions -- precisely because their travel infrastructures are so large that hotels there can present a great value and quality meeting.

Aside from economic consequences this type of scrutiny is causing some of our larger cities, I continue to stress that focusing on these individual events keeps us off the number one priority which should be managing meeting spend.  Good strategic management of meetings calls for smart sourcing practices -- including finding and making the best decisions possible, even at resorts and vacation destinations. If you have smart practices and reporting behind your decisions you’ll change the discussion from where you’re meeting to how much you’re saving on your program overall.


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