Hotels Industry coalition expands 'Meetings Mean Business' effort By Danny King / January 20, 2014 Share 1 -- Struggling against a lingering distaste for meetings within the private and public sectors alike, a coalition headed by executives of Hilton Worldwide and Maritz Travel is relaunching an advertising and marketing campaign to promote the economic value of face-to-face business meetings.The “Meetings Mean Business” coalition will launch its national campaign with $500,000, and the group plans to add to that total as more constituents are persuaded to participate in the effort, the group said at a Dec. 14 news conference in Boston.The coalition, which takes its name from an industry initiative that began in 2009, is co-chaired by Larry Luteran, senior vice president of group sales at Hilton Worldwide, and Maritz Travel President David Peckinpaugh. It also includes such industry kingpins as U.S. Travel Association President Roger Dow and David Dubois, president of the International Association of Exhibitions and Events.“How many of you remember the ‘Got Milk?’ campaign?” Dubois asked those in attendance at the announcement. “We need to have people say, ‘Got meetings?’ ‘Got events?’ ‘Got trade shows?’”The group acknowledged that it faces an uphill battle because of the public perception of lavish overspending at group meetings and subsequent government cutbacks. Luteran referenced the 2011 story — later shown to be false — about the Justice Department paying for $16 muffins at a Washington, D.C., meeting, while a government probe in 2012 revealed that 77 General Services Administration conferences that took place during the previous 18 months had cost taxpayers about $6.5 million.Congress responded last year with the Government Spending Accountability Act of 2013. That bill stated that an agency cannot spend more than $500,000 on a single conference and must report conference expenditures greater than $10,000 each quarter.It also limits individual agency expenditures on travel for fiscal years 2014 to 2018 to 70% of what was spent during fiscal 2010.Meetings Mean Business leaders see that law as misguided.Members of government “don’t understand that this is about tax dollars and jobs,” Professional Convention Management Association CEO Deborah Sexton said at the announcement. “This message has to be ongoing, year-in and year-out.”With that in mind, the group will organize its effort around three pillars: creating personal connections, driving positive business outcomes and building strong communities. Additionally, some of the group’s members planned to attend a Senate hearing last week to stress that the budget cuts in government travel are reducing federal-agency efficiency.“The $16 muffin was a great story, but it wasn’t true, and we allowed that to happen,” Luteran said. “We need to get out in front of our stories.”Follow Danny King on Twitter @dktravelweekly.