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Hospitality Industry

R.O.A.R.: Lay blame where blame is due, but it’s not the hotels

Jean Francois Mourier & Bruno Perez,  Mar 09, 2009

For the past 6 months, most of us in the hotel industry have sat by watching the effect of Wall Street’s excesses, or the “AIG effect” impact the meetings industry. Much has been made about extravagant meetings and uncalled-for expenses, however little attention has been paid to the trickle-down affecting hotels, resorts and well, millions of American workers.

At first, I’m sure that many of us felt this initial backlash would be an isolated one, but as companies continue to significantly cut back on travel costs and cancel meetings, a very different picture has emerged. It’s a picture of more than half a million workers facing unemployment, and an industry that’s been brought to its knees.

Almost overnight, meetings and business travel have become convenient scapegoats. Though they have no direct relationship to the financial turmoil enveloping mismanaged companies, the public have seized upon these “perks” as emblematic of the excesses that have derailed the American economy. The truth, however, is that business must continue during tough economic times to help boost underperforming sectors, and to stimulate future growth all around. Declining revenues demand more motivation and more focus, not less, as do high-achieving, high-production personnel and key customers. Companies must still hold trade-shows in convention centers, motivational meetings at resorts or meeting venues, and conferences at hotels to sell their products, and services, to build up their order books and manufacturing pipelines for the coming years, with profits and cash that go right back into the American economy.

You see, this type of cutting back on meetings and business travel goes far beyond the companies who are making adjustments to their budgets. A stigma is being attached to the cost of doing business, and the way in which we do business. Once companies start viewing meetings, conferences and “face-time” for potential customers as wasteful and unnecessary, our country will have a much bigger problem on its hands.

We are all for cost-effectiveness and wringing the most out of services and productivity: this is, after all, the foundation of our hotel revenue management business. But when we are faced with a stimulus package of mind-blowing proportion that is all about job creation and being “shovel ready” to get the economy back on its feet, and at the same time eliminating more than 500,000 jobs (and that’s on the low side), we can no longer sit by and do nothing.

This is a time for everyone in the travel industry – hotels, airlines, cruise lines, IT providers, travel agents, meeting planners, right through to local tourist boards and centers – to rally together to make sure these cut backs do not become part of a permanent psyche. We must not allow public perception of meetings, corporate events and business travel to become such that they’re no longer necessary. We must educate consumers and the media, to this end.

We must continue to support corporate initiatives designed to stimulate growth and reward productivity, and applaud efforts undertaken by companies to meet their obligations to their high performers, even in challenging operating environments, while cutting out the wasteful spending. This is key to a healthy revenue development strategy for business.

Jointly, our industries employ millions of people, contribute billions of dollars back into the economy and contribute to local, state and federal taxes. We haven’t asked for a bailout and yet are being punished by others’ mistakes, mismanagement and more.

Kudos to the hoteliers who traveled to Congress last week, but this is only the start. It’s time for us to become highly visible and vocal about our contribution to the recovery and growth of the American economy and to enroll the country’s support.

Hoteliers, I urge you to enroll your employees in this mission and connect with everyone in your community. Tell them about the important role you play in their community as an employer of hundreds, or thousands of workers, and your contribution to local, state and federal taxes – taxes which go right back into the government’s stimulus chest. Yes, we all support financial accountability and responsibility, especially in these tough times. And that is precisely why we cannot allow our industry to be tarnished with the wrong image of wasteful spending and indulgence.

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R.O.A.R.: Lay blame where blame is due, but it’s not the hotels
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