areas. So to help our destinations, we have to
make sure that we have tools and products
and we can mobilize people — advocacy for
our members is critical.
If you look at advocacy and funding as
one, in many cases the support CEOs need
is to have third-party data. The other side of
advocacy is what we’re beginning to see with
what we call the “weaponization of travel,”
where somehow meetings and tourism that
used to be apolitical are now being identi;ied
as political targets. We see the growing number of states and cities around the country
that the state of California has boycotted [in
terms of funding travel on state-sponsored
trips to states with discriminatory LGBT laws].
And that list seems to be added to every day.
Understandably, there are valid reasons for
the concern, but we feel as though a broad-based boycott against a city or state can be
handled di;erently to address human rights
issues — which we totally support.
What we’ve tried to do recently, with the
help of North Carolina and other interested
parties, is to support Texas [with the bathroom
bill debate that was taking place in the Texas
legislature]. Hopefully, Texas lawmakers will
not only look at what occurred in North
Carolina [with its bathroom bill] in terms of
economic loss, but also reputational damage.
We’re mobilizing sta; as well as outside
professionals. When Brand USA had its proposed budget cut by the Trump administration, we quickly helped mobilize along with
U.S. Travel, supplementing and complementing their aggressive letter-writing campaign
to elected leaders about what this would
mean if somehow these cuts went through.
We used a ne w technology on that — ;ill in the
format, the letter’s already done for you, and
o; it goes to [elected o;icials] within seconds.
On the ;lip side, what would you say
are the greatest opportunities for
I think the work being done by the MMB
[Meetings Mean Business Coalition], and
having partners like PCMA, ASAE, MPI, and
other industry organizations along with us
sitting at the table now to talk about the sig-
ni;icance and relevance of meetings, is gaining
traction. The desire to expand the concept of
MMB internationally excites us. Because one
thing I’ve learned now in my one-year-plus on
the job and a lot of travel is this: I don’t care
whether you’re sitting in Atlanta or Athens, the
importance of a meeting [cannot be overstat-
ed]. Not only in terms of its economic impact
and what it does for the local community — the
usual metrics like taxes, bene;iting restaurants,
those kinds of things — but what it does also for
the image creation of that community. When
a meeting comes in, participants might be
thinking about opening up an o;ice or relo-
cating an o;ice to a destination that is aligned
with their business or cultural aspects of their
company. Meetings are being viewed now in a
very holistic manner. I’m encouraged by that,
What opportunities do you see in
terms of Destinations International’s
connection to meeting professionals?
One area that I think that we have an incredible opportunity to really expand upon in
2017 and beyond will be the value proposition that CVBs provide to a meeting planner
or a decision maker in the meetings process.
I think traditionally a lot of CVBs are involved
when they’re citywides or there’s an annual
repeat piece of business coming in.
But it’s our opinion that the destination should be the independent keeper of
knowledge for their city. They know what
hotels are under development, they are the
authoritative experts in their respective marketplaces. If somehow a planner does not
involve the CVB in the decision process, we
believe they’re cutting short the bene;its that
meetings can derive — in terms of logistics,
partners, or thinking about booking a meeting three to ;ive years from now.
I think right now that there are certain
organizations and industries that somehow
have not used the CVB to that extent. There is
a loyal group of users, but with organizations
that somehow do not engage the CVB to the
extent that we believe they should, there’s
going be a lot of messaging starting soon on
the value proposition for a meeting planner
to involve a CVB.
— Michelle Russell
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ON THE WEB
› Learn more about
Destinations International at
› Read “The Weaponization of
Travel” report at convn.org
/weapon-travel, and register
for “The Weaponization of Travel:
Bans, Boycotts, and Restrictions”
webinar on Sept. 21 at