At P.C.M.A.: Travel Climate, Tech Cited as Biggest Issues Facing Industry

A leading hotelier and destination marketing executive discuss their concerns, and ways to rise above them.

By Rayna Katz June 19, 2017, 7:30 AM EDT

P.C.M.A. president and C.E.O. Deborah Sexton discussed the industry's challenges with Loews Corp. co-chairman Jonathan M. Tisch (left) and Fred Dixon, president and C.E.O. of NYC & Co.

Photo: Jacob Slaton

To kick off its Education Conference in New York—held June 12 to 14 at the New York Marriott Marquis—with an optimistic and forward-looking tone, the Professional Convention Management Association flashed words written in white against a black screen on reasons to break out of the “comfort zone.”

It was a theme touched upon during a session called “C-Suite Predictions to Propel Your Business Event Strategy.” Jonathan M. Tisch, co-chairman of the board of Loews Corp. and C.E.O. of Loews Hotels, and Fred Dixon, president and C.E.O. of NYC & Co., discussed threats to the industry as well as positive changes on the horizon. Deborah Sexton, president and C.E.O. of P.C.M.A., moderated.

The talk touched largely on concerns about messaging coming out of Washington, D.C., that might make international travelers feel unwelcome, security and technology, as well as the one trick that event organizers must have in their toolbox in order to succeed.

“International travel is vitally important to the nation,” said Tisch on a video replayed during the conference from an appearance on CNBC’s Squawk Box. “The industry is the largest service export and we create jobs. Travel and tourism is uniquely poised to be an economic engine in all congressional districts.” 

But while event organizers must embrace international attendees, they also must acknowledge changes being created by technology and rise above them, noted Dixon. “There are new technologies every day, and planners always run the risk of being too comfortable with their programs. They often don’t want to tinker with a successful event, but you have to innovate and try new things.”

Though Tisch agreed, there’s a basic, low-tech tool that he feels is the key to success. “The most important skill is listening. Everyone has a story and goals for a meeting or event—you want to make sure those goals are met.”

Over the course of the conference, sessions focused on measurement, strategic planning, and event design. At Monday's general session, P.C.M.A. announced plans to have a “business breakthrough incubator” during the conference, in which several teams of industry leaders would be charged with creating solutions to industry problems. Results of the project will be announced in the future.

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