When I started www.HospitalityMarketingBlog.com two years ago it was intended to be just that – a blog about hospitality marketing.  While it was never intended to be a political forum, I hope you’ll excuse me this one time.

A couple of weeks ago I posted an article The Media Are Killing Us! talking about how ABC News skewered the Social Security Administration for holding a conference for 700 employees at “a resort” in Phoenix.  Turns our the SSA got a great deal spending only $85 a night at The Arizona Biltmore ($11 below the government daily rate for Phoenix) with a total spend of about $1,000 per person for travel, food and lodging for three days.  But instead of receiving praise for astute meeting planning SSA Comissioner Michael Astrue was ridiculed publicly by the media.

If that weren’t enough, the media hogs in Congress felt compelled to get involved.  According to The Federal Times,

“leading member of two House and Ways Committee panels are accusing the agency leadership of being tone-deaf in holding the retreat at such a posh resort at a time of high unemployment and record government deficits.”

You can’t make this stuff up.  Reps. John Tanner, D-Tenn., Sam Johnson, R-Texas and John Linder, R-Ga. wrote:

“At a time when millions of Americans are out of work and having to do more with less, and when the SSA has received significant new funding to address near record backlogs after longstanding funding requests made before our subcommittees, it is essential that great care be taken to use administrative funding wisely, in a way that brings the most value to the American people SSA serves,”

Now I thought I was done reporting on this and in fact I am.  But here’s my beef.

Last Saturday I picked up the Wall Street Journal to read an article entitled, “Lawmakers’ Global-Warming Trip Hit Tourist Hot Spots“.  It details an 11-day trip taken by 10 Congressmen (and six spouses) to study climate change.  Along the way, they went diving and snorkeling at the Great Barrier Reefs, rode a cable car through the Australian rain forest and visited a penguin rookery and flew to the South Pole!

Based on what the lawmakers reported and the estimated cost for flight time provided by the Air Force, the Wall Street Journal estimates the cost to be in excess of $500,000.  What are they thinking?  Don’t they know that millions of Americans are out of work?

On that same Saturday, in the same paper I read, “Pentagon Takes Aim at Jets for Congressional Travel“.   It seems Congress added over half a BILLION dollars to the Defense Department’s budget to buy eight business-class passenger Gulfstream jets to ferry senior government and military officials around the globe – jets the Defense Department said were unnecessary!   What are they thinking?  Don’t they know that millions of Americans are out of work?

Luckily an article in yesterday’s WSJ reports the Gulfstream jet scandal is over.  The reason – an intense public outcry convinced a spendthrift Congress they don’t need to spend a half billion on new jets.  Looks like they are getting the message – millions of Americans are out of work.  Hopefully it sticks, however I doubt it will.

So, here’s the point.  If you want to make a difference you have to speak up.  If you want to convince the media and Congress that Meetings Mean Business you have to speak up.  If you want the media and Congress to stop demonizing meetings and conventions you have to speak up and tell them to shut up.

If everyone does, the message will get through.  Start today.  “Remember the Gulfstream!”

Thank you for indulging me on this rant.  Next week it’s back to hospitality marketing. I promise.

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.

  • I am a moderator on MeCo, Meetings Community (www.meetingscommunity.org). I very much appreciate your exact message of speaking up. It is time, fellow industry suppliers and planners. Other than Keep America Meeting and Roger Dow with the U.S. Travel Association, there is no one designated to speak up on behalf of meetings. When the recent meetings-related “flaps” have occurred, we looked to see who would speak up for the facts on the positive side of the story, to provide fair, balanced information to the public. There was little voice besdies Roger Dow and Ben Stein, our esteemed celebrity meetings advocate.

    For that reason, a committee of moderators on MeCo have just formed Yes2Meetings. We are a grassroots (meaning no funding) movement to help get the word out about the value of meetings in a more comprehensive, effective way. We can use everyone’s help to educate the public, and especially educate our business public, the government, and media.

    For now, please follow us on Twitter: YES2MTGS. We will soon have a website. Join us on MeCo, a free Google virtual community of nearly 3,000 meeting planners and suppliers to the meetings industry, where we will continue to inform and mobilize our MeCo muscle (meaning our dedicated members and moderators) to get the word out there in a larger way.

    We have specific plans so we can intelligently reach the public through media, social media and through the help of fellow meetings industry folks like you. Many, many people have been affected by the lack of comprehensive, balanced information about meetings.

    We want to create a real meetings VOICE! Join us in doing something good for the entire economy and society!

    Andrea H. Gold, President Gold Stars Speakers Bureau (www.goldstars.com);
    Moderator: http://www.meetingscommunity.org.

    August 14, 2009
  • Thanks for such an insightful blog post. We have a vibrant online Google Group community called MeCo (Meetings Community) with nearly 3000 industry professionals. Since associations seem to have strident edicts against lobbying and are trusting Keep America Meeting to be their voice, MeCo has started a grass roots effort to ‘speak up’ through the creation of Yes2Meetings. We hope to have a team of volunteers who can develop 5-8 talking points for each negative piece of publicity launched against our industry by seasoned industry veterans.

    Please do join us and make sure you share your industry background and read the policies for our group as it has strident ‘no marketing’ guidelines. http://www.meetingscommunity.org . You also will want to start a Google Groups account to manage your email settings. Both of the groups login and passwords are maintained solely by the member, so make sure you write them down!

    We will have greater power as a group of industry professionals as well as individuals who deluge elected officials mailboxes. If you have any hard data with statistics you could share, we’d love to get started ‘sooner vs. later’ as data is hard to come by.

    MPI is launching a new study, but it will take time to corral the information and it may not include the ‘full spend’ with other association groups and spends. The more we can band together, the better!

    August 14, 2009
  • Madigan Pratt

    “Excused Me While I Scream!” has certainly been one of the most read posts on Hospitality Marketing Blog. It has struck a nerve on a number of levels and the frustration resorts, meeting planners and hospitality marketing professionals with the media and Congress is growing daily.

    It is time to stand up and speak out. Support USTA and “Keep America Meeting” but don’t stop there. Join MeCo and support Yes2Meetings – I am. If you are a Blogger speak up. Every voice counts. Keep the pressure on.


    August 14, 2009

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