On a beautiful fall day 15 years ago, the United States was shaken to the core with the loss of over 3,000 individuals in New York, Pennsylvania and Washington, DC. I, like many Americans, can remember where I was and what I was doing during those fateful moments in time. Clinging to the radio and then the TV later in the day, I can still remember the question from my then 8-year-old son, “Are we going to be alright?” I gave him a hug and assured him that we would.
The events of that day also had a significant impact on the travel and meeting industry. With airplanes grounded for several days and nervousness about air travel safety, many meetings and conventions were canceled or postponed. Destinations such as Las Vegas and Orlando were hit hard. Meeting planners began to question what the future would hold for the entire hospitality industry. I even asked myself “Are we going to be alright?” not really knowing the long-term answer.
Six years ago, I wrote a piece on whether or not the meeting industry had rebounded from 9/11. While some terrorist threats have been stopped since then, new ones have unfolded. However, I am happy to report that the meeting industry, as a whole, is back on track and stronger than ever.
2010 versus Today: Terrorism Threats and Response
In 2010, Osama bin Laden was still at large. He was killed by U.S. Navy SEALs in May 2011.
In 2010, terrorist experts predicted Al-Qaeda would weaken their effect in the United States. In 2016, Al-Qaeda still exists, but ISES is the organization that has taken responsibility for many of the terrorist attacks throughout the world.
In 2010, despite $7 billion in federal grants, we did not have a single, nationwide public safety radio system. In 2016, the U.S. has changed their focus to a nationwide broadband network, and no, we still do not have one.
Despite these challenges, business and group travel is on the rise and has been for the last several years. In addition, the number of meetings and conventions has grown as well.
2010 versus Today: The Meetings Industry
Six years ago, meeting planners felt there would be a greater use of webinars, teleconferences and video conferences especially for internal and training meetings. This year, the largest budget increase for face-to-face meetings has been in live training (16%) followed by internal meetings (15%), according to American Express Meetings & Events.
In 2010, many meeting budgets were being cut and the number of meetings was fewer than in 2009. This year, meeting budgets increased an average of 2% as compared to the year before. The number of meetings has also increased.
Six years ago, meetings could be planned and executed with short-lead times because hotel availability was plentiful. Today, group space availability has decreased 3% because of increased demand for it. In addition, all major markets have experienced an increase in the number of hotel builds and renovations.
Key Factors to Meeting Industry Vitality
While it is important to recognize the devastating effect 9/11 had on our country, it is also important to recognize the world (i.e. Paris and Nice) have become hotbeds for terrorist activity. Meeting planners still need to be vigilant about security, including cyber security, especially when planning international events. However, face-to-face events are still the best way to convene learning.
In addition, six years ago the U.S. was in an economic downturn. This is not the case today.
Lastly, in most scenarios, it has been proven that face-to-face meetings make a stronger impact than virtual events.
Hartford Technology Rental Remembers 9/11
As a veteran-owned company, we will never forget the events surrounding 9/11 and continue to remember the victims and first responders from that day. We are proud to be Americans and hope that worldwide efforts to quash terrorism are successful.