Guest Opinion: How Meetings Industry Can Boost Natural Disaster Relief

In this time of natural disaster crises in several regions, now is a unique opportunity for businesses, associations and organizations to contribute in a particularly meaningful way. While financial contributions to charitable and faith-based organizations and other disaster relief channels serving these affected communities—including Texas, Puerto Rico, Florida, Mexico and the Virgin Island—are definitely applauded and are vital to helping those who are suffering, there is another way to mindfully contribute that can pay triple dividends to the people and businesses in these regions, and everyone involved:  Give with a meeting!

Think about it:  We give to charitable organizations, so why not give with a meeting?

If your company, association or organization has any upcoming meetings or programs that have not yet been placed for this year or next, I encourage your leadership team to consider placing your meeting in a destination that has been affected by a natural disaster. As we know, these areas need to get their economies back in gear, put their workers back to work and build their businesses back to full-needed employment. In helping these destinations, your leadership team will be elevated for all of the right reasons.

Therefore, if you are able to do so, I encourage you to talk to your boss, board of directors, constituents, members and/or suppliers to let them know that you are proactively taking a meeting to an impacted venue, such as southeastern Texas, Florida, San Juan, Puerto Rico, Mexico or the Bahamas. First, it is for your original business meeting purposes, but also to make a difference by helping others and businesses when they are in need.

Placing a new program, or staying the course with a previously booked meeting, at a much needed and impactful time like this fall and into 2018—when it is logistically viable and safe for your participants to attend—will  speak volumes about the character of your organization. The destination, hotel and service company employees, and their families will recognize the support at this challenging time, and you will see that your staff, attendees and executive committees will recognize the leadership and character of your company, association, organization or business.

In thinking about other challenging times for destinations, I recall when the American Society of Association Executives (ASAE)  took its board of directors meeting to New York City in September 2001, right after 9/11, and maintained its Summit Awards program in Washington, D.C., later in September to achieve record-level attendance and accolades for the courage and leadership. ALHI moved its Industry Advisory Council (IAC) meeting to New Orleans after Katrina, in recognition and support of the staffs of our hotel community, and it remains as one of our most heartfelt and respected programs in our 30-plus years of conducting the IAC conference.

More recently, we appreciate prominent groups that remained steadfast to hold their programs in Southern California, despite the fires that had occurred. They received terrific recognitions from their peers and attendees. These are just a few examples. Your team can make your own history by deciding to give a meeting.

By giving a meeting, you can write your own group’s next chapter.

As a result, the triple dividends include the wonderful benefits of the meeting program itself, the positive impact to your circle of influence, and the greatly appreciated and much-needed support and financial impact that you provide to those serving your meeting.

First, we all know that “Meetings Mean Business” and are a driving engine advancing business, causes, education, organizations, marketing, marketplaces and so much more. So, it is a given that there is full and legitimate cause to convene. That, of course, is the primary dividend and consideration for a program, with a content-driven purpose.

The next dividend is your circle of influence, which includes your staff, board of directors, members, company, branches and other service suppliers, who will recognize that giving a meeting to a venue in difficult circumstances is a positive reflection on the character of your organization, and this will add to the legacy of how you conduct business.

The third dividend is to those serving throughout your meeting, from arrival at the airport, to the hotel/resort, through departure—people working for the bell staff, housekeeping, culinary talent, banquet set-up, A/V support, transportation, decor, etc. This also includes those in area businesses that supply the hotels that also are affected by the volume of meetings and programs, as it brings added business within their community.

Ultimately, this goes on to the local economy, including grocery stores and elsewhere, utilized by these employees. Each of these individuals, their families and the community will positively benefit by your program being held at that venue. They want to get back to work to host your group, and are very eager to serve. Your attendees will have a great experience—undeterred by past circumstances—due to your content, and the brightness and real contributions they bring to the lives of many of those affected.

While the golf course might have a few less trees, in its place you will see bigger smiles and appreciation for giving!

I encourage you to reach out to your national sales organization or global sales organization to book a program soon in an impacted destination. The commitment alone is a relief. Everyone will feel good about it!

Submitted by David Gabri, chairman of Associated Luxury Hotels, the world’s leading independent global sales organization serving the hospitality industry and the parent company of Associated Luxury Hotels International (ALHI)—the leader in extraordinary meeting venues—and WorldHotels. Collectively, Associated Luxury Hotels embodies more than 600 luxury-level hotels and resorts around the world, which are mostly independently owned or operated. ,,