Everyone is panicking now – government groups cancelling left and right. There’s fear, there’s anger, there’s a lot of misunderstanding and so much more that’s simply not known. So many people praise these cancellations when they see them on their evening news or on the front page of the newspaper. Bravo! The government is saving me money! Really? Are they? In the meantime, we don’t hear enough about the understory – the devastating and incalculable economic impact on industry and local economies. These knee-jerk cancellations save money, but not nearly as much as they are perceived to.
More than anything they save face and cost money. The economy gains nothing from GSA saving on not holding their expo. But lawmakers are content because it fuels the perception of the inefficiency of government, and so long as at least half of the government is ruled by those who inherently don’t believe in government, I don’t see a clean way out of this inane spiral.
As a prospective future member of the board of the Society of Government Meeting professionals, we need to consciously look two years into future, presuming government meetings come back in some form or another. This incoming board will surely be tasked with selling the government that meetings can be done right and are not just useful but necessary; but additionally, the board will be tasked with selling suppliers on the viability of government meetings. I foresee a shift in the way that industry views us. We can already see it. Sponsorships are down, booth sales from the major chains are contracting. What used to be an easy risk versus reward calculation is now tragically weighted on the side of risk. Two years from now – will there be enough hotels supportive of the government market? In short – will they take us back?
Who would have thought we’d have to spend just as much time on selling the government on government meetings than we do selling industry on taking government meetings on. After 9/11 the government saved the hotel industry and filled rooms all over the country with meetings, conferences, and long term stays. That’s a distant memory now. Will they take us back when government meetings return? Or with one unnecessary knee-jerk cancellation after another, have we overstayed our welcome?