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U.S. Travel Association, Washington, is not allowing the General Services Association kerfuffle to stop its campaign to promote meetings to federal lawmakers. The association is tying its "Keep America Meeting" toolkit - released yesterday - to its enhanced education campaign in Congress.
The toolkit has information on the economic and jobs impact of meetings, sample editorial pieces, guide to giving back of house tours to lawmakers; and three action items for association and corporate professionals to do:
1. Give back of house tours to officials
2. Conduct an in-district visit with elected officials
3. Host a travel employee letter writing day, in which professionals write personal letters, as opposed to sending form letters, to members of Congress, describing why they enjoy working in the meetings industry.
U.S. Travel is hoping to partner with other associations in distributing the toolkit, including Meeting Professionals International and Hospitality Sales and Marketing Association International. The tour bus promoting the Vote Travel campaign stopped at HSMAI's Meet Mid-America meeting this week in Chicago, where information on travel and meetings were offered.
The associaition's Get America Moving campaign, which is part of the Vote Travel effort, has five-point action plan, which includes the Keep America Meeting effort. The plan is to educate lawmakers on Capitol Hil, and create allies for the travel and meeting industries.
"U.S. Travel can't leave anything to chance. You saw what happen in 2009, and we can't let that happen again," said the association's public affairs SVP Blain Rethmeier, referring to public officials and the media calling out corporate travel as excessive, especially of companies that took government assistance to stay afloat during the economic downturn.
Asked if U.S. Travel was concerned that the GSA meeting controversy might bring about the same criticism, known as the AIG Effect after the company that was the first to be singled out in 2009, Rethmeier said, "There is no question that this was irresponsible behavior" by a few, but hopes that the travel and meetings industries' effort to "develop congressional allies is fruitful now that the spotlight is back on meetings."
In a report released this week, GSA was criticized for throwing a meeting that many view as wasteful and excessive. High-ranking GSA officials lost their jobs because of the report, and the GSA director resigned.