"Our challenge today is perfecting the way CVBs, hotel national sales offices and 3rd party planners work together to the benefit of everyone..."
Watching the news clips from the recent celebration of the 50 year anniversary of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.’s March on Washington, I started thinking about the infinite number of changes that have taken place in our world since 1963. I was just a little kid at the time of the march and clueless about racial and social inequality. The Civil Rights Act of 1964, which made discrimination in public places illegal, was enacted as I began elementary school in California, so I never drank from “whites only” water fountains or attended a school that closed its doors to black students.
Both the social and business environments were quite different in 1963 than they are today, and that includes our industry – the world of meetings and conventions.
In the ‘60s (‘70s and early’80s, too), meeting planners were fighting to get their jobs recognized as “professions,” and MPI was founded in 1972 to lead the charge. Many destinations did not yet have convention and visitors bureaus – the chamber of commerce took care of any meeting inquiries. (The first satellite CVB offices were the Los Angeles and San Diego CVBs, opened in Washington, DC in 1963.) Hotel chains had a few large convention hotels scattered around the country which were greatly out-numbered by Holiday Inns and Best Westerns. And third party planning companies weren’t even dreamed of; the first semblance of a 3rd party was Conferon (now Experient) which opened in 1970 as a hotel selection and negotiation company.
Fast forward to today and “Holy Convention Center, Batman!” According to the U.S. Travel Association, meeting, exhibit and incentive travel accounted for $103 billion in spending in the U.S. in 2012. You’d be hard pressed to find a destination with even the most modest meeting facilities that doesn’t have a CVB marketing its product. Around the world, Hilton Corporation includes more than 3,400 properties among its brands, Starwood Hotels and Resorts Worldwide owns, manages or franchises over 1,100 hotels and Hyatt has over 500; national and global sales offices abound to place meetings and conventions in their huge inventory of properties. Third party planners have proliferated and morphed into some of the most influential buyers in our industry.
Our challenge today is perfecting the way CVBs, hotel national sales offices and 3rd party planners work together to the benefit of everyone: our meeting planner customers, our destinations, our hotel brands and our corporate service providers. The savvy players among us are letting down the walls around the “confidential” information that we fiercely guarded as proprietary a few years ago. We’re learning that pooling our intelligence, accepting the role that each planning partner fulfills, and operating from trust makes the site selection and meeting production process easier and smoother, and the results are better.
Fifty years later, much like the hopes set forth in Dr. King’s dream, we have not yet achieved all that we, as planning partners, are capable of, but the strides we’ve made are a testimony to an industry going in the right direction!