Foundations Under Fire

A group of hoteliers and other suppliers met in Washington D.C. in mid-March to discuss their growing dissatisfaction with supporting the separate foundations of the industry's many associations. The meeting also included representatives from the associations MPI, PCMA, ASAE, DMAI (formerly IACVB), NBTA, and IAEM.

Many suppliers feel it's inefficient and burdensome to make multiple contribution to various foundations throughout the year, with much of the money going to support programs with similar purposes. "A lot of us want to see a single industry foundation," says David Scypinski, senior vice president of industry relations at White Plains, NY-based Starwood Hotels and the chief initiator of the meeting. "That could allow the organizations to collect money simultaneously and have non-overlapping programs that benefit the whole industry."

"Do we need so many independent groups that aren't working together to promote the industry as a whole?" asks Carrie Freeman, vice president of marketing at Dallas, TX-based Freeman, a leading trade show services company. "To think all of these groups are too disparate to work together—it's an emotional and territorial argument. We simply have a finite amount of money." Supplier participants in the meeting were Starwood, Marriott, Hilton, Hyatt, InterContinental, and Gaylord; two airlines, American, and United; and Freeman and GES Exposition Services.

Some of the associations may not be inclined to collaborate, though. "One foundation is not a viable solution," says John Graham, chief executive of ASAE. "It assumes the foundations are willing to give up their identities, and I don't believe that's true. And it suggests we all do the same thing; I don't think that's true either.

"I can give you the converse: Why isn't there just one hotel?" he asks. "Hotels like to have their own identity."