It's been little more than three weeks since the recent government shutdown in the U.S. went into effect, and we often forget that now that it has reopened, there are still very important and relevant conversations to be had from our industry to continue advocating for the meetings industry in the midst of sequestration.
Let's not forget that the government still has to approve and pass a budget by January 17 of next year -- which is a serious enough deadline without having to consider the February 7 date, at which we reach the U.S. debt ceiling.
As DMOs, we have a unique position of engaging our communities in important dialogues with law makers, so here are five tips to make the most of the months ahead so that as an industry, we'll all be in a better place by Spring:
1. Understand your economic impact.
U.S. Travel reported a $2.2 billion loss to the travel and tourism industry from the government shutdown. As staggering as this number is, it's even more important now to define exactly what share of that could be your community's economic loss if the sequester continues, or Heaven forbid, another shut down were to happen next year. Estimating such a number doesn't just happen overnight, so make sure you're up to date on translating the impact of meetings and events to your destination in terms that stakeholders can understand. That's tax revenue, jobs, and total spending.
2. Gather hotel data.
According to a recent Washington Post article and Smith Travel Research, Washington, D.C. hotels alone saw 13,000 less bookings as occupancy fell 12.1% in the first week of the government shut down. Now is the time to look at your own hotel inventory and see how both the sequester and shut down might have impacted your venues in order to make the case on behalf of your hoteliers.
3. Keep tabs on your upcoming meetings.
Take inventory of government or government-related meetings scheduled in the coming year and be sure to stay in touch with meeting professionals impacted by this uncertainty. Getting a clear picture of what they're going through and how you can help is a sure way of minimizing both your risk and theirs, so stay ahead of the game with your customers.
4. Stay in the loop with local officials.
Of course, all this would be for nothing if we couldn't present a strong case for the meetings industry, and travel and tourism in general, to those who are responsible for making a deal in January. As DMO professionals, we are all very familiar with the politics of managing relationships, and we are more than qualified to organize different groups around the issues that matter and communicate across these groups. So keep connected to those in Washington.
5. Establish contingency plans.
Lastly, there's always room for Plan B. Leaving October behind us doesn't mean we're out of the woods yet, so take what you experienced in this last go around and ask yourself: What should I have done differently? What did I wish I had on hand but didn't? Then prepare for it, because if you don't, you just might wish you had come mid-January.