Tourism bureaus around the world banded together as a collective force to promote the economic impact of meetings and conventions during the first Global Meetings Industry Day (GMID) on April 14.
GMID is spearheaded by the Washington, D.C.-based Meetings Mean Business Coalition (MMBC), which consists of some the biggest brands in hospitality and tourism, ranging from Marriott to Disney to Visit Florida. Previously, the event was specific to North America, called “NAMID.”
Here is a list of organizations that participated in GMID 2016, and their initiatives.
Meetings Mean Business was forged during the darkest days of the recession in 2009 when companies began cutting back on travel for business events, creating no shortage of fear and panic throughout the hospitality and tourism industry.
Today, the MMBC website offers a “Toolkit” for industry trends, news, information, and data to inform business development strategy for travel and tourism professionals. Building on that, GMID is an attempt to spread the message that “meetings mean business” to a wider audience of industry stakeholders and also the general public.
Some destinations invested more effort in GMID than others.
Breaking the MMBC message down to its most essential: Meetings drive business development for companies and associations. They provide real, measurable value. So if a destination really wants to support GMID, they should also provide some kind of programming of value for meeting professionals, versus self-promotional marketing in the guise of advocacy.
An example of the former, the Las Vegas Convention & Visitors Authority (LVCVA) hosted a panel last week with an introduction by Roger Dow, president and CEO of the U.S. Travel Association, who shared data that’s informative for the industry in general.
That was followed by a panel discussion moderated by LVCVA CEO Rossi Ralenkotter, with senior executives from MGM Resorts, Caesars Entertainment, Wynn Resorts, and The Venetian/Palazzo Hotels. Then the LVCVA posted a video of the panel discussion for the industry to share.
There’s your measurable value. While the growth of GMID is significant, more destination marketing organizations in first-tier cities should create similar panels and content.
“We look at Global Meetings Industry Day as the culmination of years of effort on behalf of Las Vegas to talk about why meetings and face-to-face gatherings are important,” Chris Meyer, VP of global business sales for the LVCVA, told Skift. “No other community in the country is embedded or affected by the convention, meetings, trade show, and events industry as Las Vegas.”
Meanwhile, Visit Florida and NYC & Company — representing two of the biggest meeting and convention industry powerhouse destinations in the world — hosted Twitter chats. They had a few other brand activations to promote the regions as well, such as getting the Empire State Building to display the MMBC’s blue color on April 14. It’s good that Florida and New York did what they did, but there’s an opportunity here to provide more lasting content and higher quality insight to meeting planners.
Las Vegas #GMID16
Dow said that convention bureaus in 30 countries were activating 110 GMID events. Together, they had already generated 13 million tweets by the time he spoke, ranking #GMID16 the #3 trend on Twitter, compared to three million tweets last year.
Dow’s main message was the need for continuing advocacy around the value of the meetings industry, aimed at local, regional, and national governments.
“We’ve got to really make sure that our elected officials understand the value of meetings, how important they are to jobs and our economy,” he said. “Meetings alone bring $114 billion to our economy, 12% of all travel, and 940,000 jobs.” In Las Vegas, the events industry supports 66,500 jobs, according to the LVCVA.
Ralenkotter opened the panel by saying, “People really don’t understand the impact that the meetings and trade show business has in the United States. It’s an integral part of how we do business… and our industry is larger than the auto industry.”
The first exchange revolved around the need for better technology and more Wi-Fi bandwidth.
Chuck Bowling, president and COO at Mandalay Bay, said, “The conversation of technology has become key, and we’ve invested a lot in our company across all of our portfolio of MGM Resorts…. [But] I don’t know if we can get ahead of it. It’s very, very challenging going forward.”
“It’s hard to figure out what’s next, and it’s really expensive,” added Michael Massari, senior VP, Caesars Entertainment. “What you need to have just to get in the game and what you need to differentiate yourself — it’s a difficult question.”
Chandra Allison, VP of sales at The Venetian/Palazzo Hotels, said Millennials take Wi-Fi for granted so it’s an expectation, not a value-add, compelling her hotels to recently invest $8 million in Wi-Fi infrastructure.
Ralenkotter then asked Allison how Millennials are impacting the meeting experience today.
“Millennials aren’t there to just listen, they’re there to engage and they want to be part of the conversation, so when we speak to them, we need to speak in a way that’s meaningful for them,” she said. “They use face-to-face meetings to actually learn, to talk to people, and to really understand new things and what’s going on in the industry — potentially even job opportunities.”
To engage younger attendees, or “meeting participants,” as Allison prefers to call them, she uses social selling, content, and customized events.
Massari followed, “What I think is super interesting is Millennials get a bad rap for not being interested in face-to-face. It’s the complete opposite. They really value face-to-face…. but you have to make it interactive. It has to be two-way, otherwise you lose them.”
Next, Allison discussed the new return on investment in the meetings industry is all about improved networking options, versus only better attendance figures.
“We see customers measuring ROI on learning and engagement,” she said. “And so how that trend is actually changing meeting design is quite fascinating.” Mainly, she explained, there’s a move toward more pop-up events, casual networking, customized dining, and more shared spaces for collaborating.
Wrapping up, everyone agreed that Las Vegas today is much different than 20 years ago, with meetings and conventions driving some of that shift.
“Over the years, the non-gaming revenues have exceeded gaming revenues,” said Chris Flatt, EVP, hotel sales & marketing at Wynn Las Vegas. “That has just really allowed all of us to make investments in this business.”
Hopefully, the LVCVA will continue to put these panels together for GMID every year. Although, rather than having Las Vegas suppliers just talking to themselves, it might be good to have an independent moderator who can challenge the panelists a bit more, and ask pertinent follow up questions.
Some additional questions crowdsourced online could also be integrated, as well as more content preceding and following GMID to provide additional context. There’s a chance here to make a real dent in the meetings industry conversation now with the growing attention on GMID. We just need a few more convention bureaus to step up to the plate with real content.