Meeting With the President

Roger Dow and 12 CEOs from the biggest travel companies in the industry were meeting in Washington, DC the week of March 11 for a CEO forum. "We let the administration know we'd be in town," says Dow, who in turn, was contacted by the White House to set up a meeting for Friday, March 13.

"We were not sure with whom we would be meeting with until President Obama walked into the room," explains Dow. "It was a pleasant surprise. It was even more pleasant that it was not a drive-by handshake. He sat down and was engaged for a solid 20 minutes."

At the forefront of the discussion was the role that travel can play in strengthening the American economy. "He listened very carefully. He understands the importance of meetings and events and international travel," says Dow. "He seemed to realize that travel is a solution that will help turn the economy around."

Before this meeting, the President was criticized by many for a comment he made that said that companies receiving government bailout money "can't go take a trip to Las Vegas or go down to the Super Bowl on the taxpayers' dime."

"In this meeting, it was clear to us that the President understands the important role meetings and events play in making it possible for companies to be more productive and financially
successful," explains Dow.

International travel was another subject that was touched upon during the meeting. "We discussed how well received his presidency is around the world and how we can capitalize on this public diplomacy tool by inviting more people to America."

Another signal of progress came for the industry that afternoon as the same group had a meeting with Senator John Kerry, a senior member of the Finance Committee, who has introduced legislation that would ban all 421 firms including the nation's largest banks that received money from the Troubled Asset Relief Program (TARP) from hosting, sponsoring or paying for conferences, holiday parties, and entertainment events.

"Senator Kerry explained his legislation is geared toward holiday parties and entertainment, not meetings. He said he understands the value meetings are to the country as well as to his state of Massachusetts," says Dow.

For a full report on how the industry is banding together and fighting back, don't miss the cover story in the April issue of Successful Meetings.