On advocating for the meetings industry

President and CEO, Greater Boston Convention & Visitors Bureau

  • More than 25 years in the industry
  • Recently selected to join Michael Massari, chief sales officer of Caesars Entertainment, in chairing the Meetings Mean Business Coalition (MMB).

Will the integration of Meetings Mean Business with U.S. Travel Association jump start efforts in getting meetings back on track?

This will be the first year we’ll have MMB directly under the auspices of U.S. Travel. Our April 7th Global Meetings Industry Day will more important than ever. We’re hoping to garner national attention on the importance of meetings throughout the U.S. Although we have had a particular struggle in the Northeast so we are going to put the spotlight on the value meetings bring to our communities. Our local PCMA and MPI chapters will be doing an event at Fenway Park that day and we’re very excited about that.

The agenda for MMB 2022 will be “Meet Safe.” How will that impact meeting professionals day-to-day?

This agenda aligns perfectly with what we are doing in Boston. Early in the pandemic, we started with the message of Meet Small, a campaign to promote booking meetings of 50 people or less.

That campaign began in late ‘20. Then in late ‘21 we morphed into our Meet Safe Campaign. The goal is to promote appropriate protocols to make sure meetings are safe and to inform our customers that we have everything in place to keep delegates and our associates safe and healthy. So, in Boston we are fully aligned with the Meet Safe moniker and I know my colleagues across the country can insure the same.

How is Boston faring for meetings now?

Well, the variant set us back after a lot of postponed events had just started to take place last year. Our hotels are now recording a great deal of interest and the numbers are starting to work in our favor.

I’m asked quite often to make Covid-19 predictions. I no longer make predictions. Every time I make one it’s wrong. All I can say is we remain optimistic that this year will be better than last year.

Read MoreSmall is Big in Greater Boston

Do you now see a way forward for meetings and for travel in general?

The difference between the early days of Covid and now is that now, we’re learning to live with it. We are moving on with our lives despite it. I’m very proud of how my city has reacted to every phase of Covid-19. We now have a lot of tools in our toolbox and that will serve us well in the future.

Is one of those tools still hybrid meetings?

I think the jury is out on hybrid meetings. It’s not inexpensive and you can’t give your attendees 100 percent of your content with hybrid. I firmly believe that being in person is much more meaningful.

“I’m very proud of how my city has reacted to every phase of Covid-19. We now have a lot of tools in our toolbox
and that will serve us well in the future”.

How about testing and proof of vaccinations?

I think both will continue to be important. The Omni at the Seaport has developed an innovative system on check-in where you get a color-coded key card based on your status. Then all you must do is show the key card and staff knows your status–very clever.

As for testing on site, yes, I think it’s going to be with us as long as Covid-19 is with us.

MMB is doing a lot of advocacy in Washington, D.C. Do you think the federal government has done enough for the hotel sector?

No, I don’t feel the hotel industry has gotten the right amount of federal help. The aviation industry is different, but hotels and meeting venues have not received the same support. Lobbying has been taking place and we do it on the local level as well. During Destination Capitol Hill in April, we’ll go to our respective delegations and plead the case. Being directly affiliated with U.S. Travel means MMB has some incredibly strong lobbying power.

Do you feel that the travel and meetings industries have come away with any positives during our struggle with Covid-19?

Despite the frustration of it all, when we’ve finally gotten together, it has made our gatherings more meaningful. Now, when I see my colleagues, it is with so much gratitude. There is no question at all to me that we’re stronger and much more resilient than we’ve ever been as a sector.

We can’t go backwards now. We can only go forward into life.

This article appears in the February/March 2022 issue.