U.S. Travel Association’s annual Global Meetings Industry Day was held on March 30 around the world including at the Hyatt Regency New Orleans, hosted by New Orleans and Company, the city's convention and visitor bureau.
This year’s theme, Meetings Matter, highlighted the importance of events, especially in cities like the Big Easy where travel and tourism account for a majority of the jobs.
"We’re a meeting city, and our community depends on [meetings and conventions]," said Stephanie Turner, senior vice president of convention sales and strategies for New Orleans and Company. "It’s the foundation for everything else."
As part of the GMID programming, a panel featured three industry professionals who have held events in the city: Sherrif Karamat, president and CEO of PCMA; Lauren Parr, senior vice president of meetings and learning for the American Geophysical Union; and Ryan E. Tucker, deputy executive director of Kappa Alpha Psi Fraternity, Inc. They spoke about hosting meetings in the Crescent City.
"We want a diverse, engaging, dynamic place," said Parr. "We want to see ourselves in the community and our attendees do that here."
While in-person events have been the focus coming out of the pandemic, virtual meetings are still important, both for accessibility and sustainability purposes, Parr added. "We will keep virtual always as an option. We don’t believe that that diminishes a very healthy in-person meeting," she said. "As annoying as it was sitting on endless hours of Zoom calls and feeling very disconnected in some ways, it was also a way to be more accessible, it is a way for people to manage their carbon, it is a way for people to say, 'I can’t afford to come this year but maybe I can afford to come next year.'"
Another topic of discussion was the future of the industry in terms of employee retention and talent acquisition.
"We’ve got to do a better job — at the college level and even high school level — of speaking to the opportunities in business events," Karamat said. "We have to do a better job at elevating our industry because there are quite rewarding careers across our enterprise. There’s no better industry to be in than the business events industry."
GMID 2023: Meetings Matter
The theme of Global Meetings Industry Day 2023 was simple: #MeetingsMatter. Meeting professionals across the United States and in more than 30 countries will amplify that message in person and online on March 30, designated as a day of advocacy to raise awareness of the undeniable value business events bring to people, businesses and communities.
Launched by the U.S. Travel Association on April 14, 2016, GMID has provided a platform for industry professionals to promote not only the economic importance of meetings, but the role of face-to-face interactions in building relationships, sharing knowledge and driving innovation.
In 2022, meetings generated nearly $100 billion in travel spending in the United States, directly supporting 600,000 American jobs, according to research by Tourism Economics. That’s one of many talking points outlined in U.S. Travel’s GMID Toolkit. Another stat worth sharing: Group travel volume has escalated in recent months. Domestic group business travel accounted for 38 percent of all U.S. business travel spending in 2022. Group travel spending is projected to increase by 25 percent in 2023, generating more than $110 billion in revenue.
The absence of meetings during the pandemic drew attention to their value, notes Nan Marchand Beauvois, U.S. Travel’s senior vice present of membership and industry relations. The latest Northstar/Cvent Meetings Industry PULSE Survey underscores that point: The overwhelming majority of planners say their events have increased in importance.
Taking the message to elected officials
“A very important part of our message is to make sure we’re talking to the right people, not just to each other,” says Marchand Beauvois. In other words, GMID is not intended to be a global day of parties for meeting professionals. “We love our business, and there’s nothing wrong with that, but this is the time to elevate awareness that this is a serious industry.”
Elected officials and business leaders should be invited to GMID activities and encouraged to participate, she adds. “Let's make sure that there is an innate understanding of the value and the economic impact this industry brings to people, businesses, communities. We're really hoping that people throughout the United States, specifically, take this opportunity and use it to leverage the importance of this industry segment."