U.S. Travel Association President and CEO Geoff Freeman shared his perspective for meeting planners about Global Meetings Industry Day, March 30, 2023.
Why the theme #MeetingsMatter?
Simply said, there's power in convening. This year’s theme aims to position the essential nature of meetings in conversations about economic growth, bolstering the workforce and sparking innovation. Meetings are vital to businesses and to so much of what we do in our society.
What should be the key message coming out of #GMID2023?
That meetings and events travel are essential, not only to our economy through the nearly $100 billion in travel spending it generates, but also to the education and knowledge that attendees derive by participating. We also want to create greater awareness that business travel—the act of traveling to meet with clients and forge deals—results in a measurable ROI to a company’s bottom line. The takeaway is that business and meetings travel matter to the prosperity of workers and businesses. Competitive businesses simply cannot afford to sideline business travel.
What comes to mind when you think about the state of the meeting/hospitality industry?
The industry has come a long way since the pandemic first halted meetings around the world, but we still have work ahead of us to fully restore business travel and accelerate growth. A seamless and secure experience for travelers from end-to-end is an absolute must in a world where virtual tools like Zoom, Teams and others threaten business travel recovery and growth. We also need the federal workforce back in the office and back to business travel. Getting these employees back in the office and attending professional meetings would provide a significant validator to private sector companies looking to do the same.
How can meeting planners advocate for the importance of our industry?
We are encouraging meeting planners to spread the word through LinkedIn posts, hosting an event, posting on social media, engaging with the media and elected officials, and by turning channels blue, the official color of GMID, for the day. For example, the Empire State Building and other notable landmarks have lit up in blue in honor of Global Meetings Industry Day.
What advice would you give to meeting planners regarding the economy?
Even in times of economic uncertainty, in-person meetings are a solid investment for businesses and employees alike. Developing relationships is considered the most critical component of business travel to job performance for both business travelers and corporate executives. It’s clear that bringing people together helps organizations build a competitive edge and increase bottom-line revenues. And conventions and conferences serve as critical education platforms for professionals and are key to developing advanced skills and training.
Another survey found that an overwhelming majority of execs, more than eight in 10, prefer in-person meetings to virtual contact, noting how they create space for tough, timely business decisions and foster more complex strategic thinking. While virtual meetings may be convenient for some, they are much less effective in developing lasting relationships and getting deals done. According to a study from Forbes Insights, face-to-face requests are 34 times more effective than emailed ones.