As if planning weren’t difficult enough, travel bans, restrictions and advisories being issued through legislation, press release and/or tweet can make deciding where to hold an event seem like navigating a mine field—blind folded.
A recent study by Destinations International, PCMA Education Foundation and APCO Insight on the economic impact of what it called The Weaponization of Travel showed that a steady barrage of travel boycotts have brought attention to controversial issues and had an economic impact on the hospitality sector, but have not been consistently effective in changing policy.
The measures launched against states such as North Carolina, Indiana, Tennessee, Mississippi and Arizona have brought negative and positive publicity—and mixed results. The study surveyed travelers about their awareness of the bans and the potential impact on travel intent. One in three surveyed said they are less likely to go to a targeted state, compared to one in ten who say a ban would make them more likely to go to that state.
What the boycotts, bans and advisories issued as a resulted of controversial legislation have done is cost states millions in lost revenue ($141 million in lost meeting and convention-related revenue to Arizona alone in 2010) from relocated conferences and stagnation in room rates.
The study also, helpfully, identified alternatives to limiting travel to a certain place. Some of these ideas might come in handy when you are trying to negotiate a peaceful meeting.
1. Donate to causes
After North Carolina passed HB2 (also known as the “bathroom bill” and seen as discriminating against civil rights) Beyonce went on to perform at a scheduled concert, but spoke out against the bill at the event and encouraged attendees to donate to LGBT groups in the state. Respondents to the survey—particularly those who identified as millennials—saw that solution as being equal to or better than a boycott for effectiveness.
2. Contact politicians directly
In March, NCAA made its feelings known to North Carolina legislators who voted to amend the controversial bill. The report noted that often all of these measures happen together: “Interestingly, the change occurred only after the culmination of the most recent election cycle, when a Democratic governor was elected into power. This suggests that shifts in the political environment… coupled with public outcry and tangible economic impact, may help to create an environment where change can occur.”
3. Participate in the discussion
The goal, most travel ban imposers say, is to bring awareness to an issue. Participating in the conversation is one way to clarify reasons for putting an event in a specific location and communicate values without disrupting the business goals.
Just in case all of those approaches fail, the report noted that the Center for Association Leadership has encouraged members to include language in contracts to make cancellations an option if controversial legislation affects the viability of a meeting. Something to keep in mind in these divided times.