The Social Security Administration recently held its first conference since 2001 which included 700 attendees at the Arizona Biltmore in Phoenix.   Perhaps you heard about it because of the brouhaha raised by ABC News when they offered a totally unflattering report. If not, you can read and see it here.

Just in case you think the media is unbiased, let it be known the ABC Report was filled with a full array of half truths intended to sensationalize the conference and embarrass the SSA.  In the process it is perpetuating the AIG effect that is devastating the meetings and conventions business, slashing revenues at resort hotels and causing lay offs of thousands of dedicated workers.  Shame on you ABC!

Here’s a few examples of what ABC reported and the truth of what went on:

  • ABC Reported –  The SSA spent $700,000 for 700 people to attend a three day conference.  What they didn’t say was the SSA shopped around for the best price and was able to secure a room rate of $85 per night.  What would you expect for Phoenix in the summer?  They got a great deal!
  • ABC Reported – Some of the government managers brought along relatives.  Imagine that! Husbands and wives going to a conference with their spouses.  Now that’s real news.
  • ABC reported – There was a night excursion to a local casino.  What they didn’t say was SSA employees (and not the government) have to pick up their own entertainment expenses including trips to casinos.
  • ABC reported – The conference included a performance by a motivational dance company. Isn’t increasing employee motivation and thus performance one reasons to have a conference?   What ABC didn’t say was most attendees sit in windowless conference rooms from 8m to 6pm.
  • ABC interviewed someone from the watchdog Citizens Against Government Waste group who scoffed at  SSA claims the conference was put on as inexpensively as possible.  They claimed if the SSA wanted to do that it would have held a video conference!  I like what Steve Moore, president of the Greater Phoenix CVB had to say about that – “What’s next?  Thanksgiving online?”

Phoenix is a city with many resort hotels that have been hard hit by the current recession and huge drop off in meeting and convention business.  Several hotels have gone bankrupt and others are on the verge.

Biased and sensationalized reports like this are hurting every hotel and resort that receives even a tiny portion of their revenue from meetings and conventions.  In some cases reports like this are killing resorts and increasing unemployment.

If you are as incensed as I am about the way the media is piling on and demonizing meetings and conventions I encourage you to speak out.  Let the media know “Meetings Mean Business.”  They also mean jobs to a lot of low income individuals who really do need a job right now.

Leave a comment.  Let others know what you think.  Forward this link to others in the industry.  If you’re a blogger speak out!

Safe travels – Madigan Pratt

AUTHOR: Madigan Pratt

Madigan Pratt is President of MP&A Digital & Advertising, an award-winning agency helping luxury hotels attract and retain profitable customers. Principals with over 60 years of collective experience at some of the world's largest advertising and direct marketing companies lead the agency's team of marketing, creative, public relations, Internet and social media professionals.

  • Right on. Great post. The media is killing the convention and meeting space by trying to find anything they deem scandalous. This is unfortunate for the entire industry that makes money from meetings and conventions and there by stimulates the economy in return. What the media doesn’t understand is meetings and conventions are a necessary part of business and they can be done without exuberant spending.

    Disclosure: I work for the Scottsdale Convention and Visitors Bureau, but this is solely my opinion and doesn’t represent the Scottsdale CVB in anyway.

    July 16, 2009
  • Madigan Pratt

    Thanks for speaking out Josh,
    While it may not be the official opinion of the Scottsdale CVB, I’m sure it represents the feelings of the vast majority of CVB’s and resort hoteliers across the country. Media muckraking is causing immeasurable misery for far too many. Time to stop the insanity.

    July 17, 2009

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