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Travel Leaders Back Immigration Reform 

The U.S. Travel Association is among the backers of proposed federal government policies on immigration and in late October, participated in an immigration discussion on Capitol Hill, which brought 600 public- and private-sector leaders together with members of Congress.

"Immigration reform represents an opportunity to both enhance U.S. security and boost long-term economic growth," said Roger Dow, president/CEO of U.S. Travel. "The business community sees tremendous benefit in moving ahead with comprehensive reform now."

Marriott International President/CEO Arne Sorenson also attended the event. "For those of us in travel and tourism, the opportunities at hand break down into two broad categories: one, promoting and facilitating international tourism in the United States, and two, stabilizing our industry's workforce."

The U.S. Travel Association is also working with Congress to build support for the Jos Originated through Launching Travel (JOLT) Act introduced in the House. Among the JOLT Act's provisions, it would:

Expand the U.S. Visa Waiver Program that enables  international travelers from approved countries to enter the U.S. without a visa;

Expand the Global Entry program that expedites entry for preapproved, low-risk international travelers;

Facilitate the use of secure videoconferencing to conduct visa interviews by authorizing a pilot program to test feasibility, which would provide increased access to a U.S. visa for potential travelers; and

Encourage more travel from Canada.

Down also urged the House to establish the goal of screening all air passengers being processed at gateway airports within 45 minutes.

The Case for Strategic Meetings Management:
Should You Or The Boss lead 

ALEXANDRIA, Va.   The good news is more and more organizations are using strategic meetings management (SMM) programs when planning events; however, most planners that are not using an SMM say their boss needs to establish the process.

This data comes from a State of Strategic Meetings Management 2013 report by the Global Business Travel Association, which surveyed meeting planners about SMM programs.

The study found that over half (52%) of respondents work for companies with an SMM program in place or in development. Of those, respondents said their programs: increase their control over cost savings (76 percent); streamline the meetings processes (76 percent); and help allocate resources & savings (67 percent).

But the survey also found that when there is no program in place, many meeting planners expect the bosses to initiate them. Of those who are not using SMM programs, three in five or 59 percent, said they need initiatives led by senior leadership to establish them. Also, 58 percent, noted that support for SMM from company executives is essential for programs to succeed.

Yet GBTA leaders suggest that meeting planners are the ones that need to take the lead when it come to SMM. "Meetings professionals need to demonstrate the value of SMM programs to corporate leadership," said Joseph Bates, vice president of research at GBTA. "Leaders who understand how SMM programs can help companies get the most out of their meetings and events budgets are more likely to champion and develop these programs."

Use technology to collect data on your meetings, make decisions based on that data and share analytics with the boss, suggests Kari Wendel, SMMC, senior director of SMM Strategy + Solutions at CWT Meetings & Events. "Meetings require a large investment for many companies, which is why SMM programs have been deployed. Technology enables the capture of important data and analytics, but it's up to the meetings professionals to make informed, actionable decisions based on the story that the data is telling, and to communicate the value of the overall program to the C-level to ensure support."

Who do you think needs to initiate an SMM program? You or the boss? Take our Facebook poll today.



Feds Raise Travel Per Diem Rates
(A Rate Hike to Celebrate)

WASHINGTON, D.C.   The General Services Administration has just announced its updated list of per diem rates with the standard Continental United States per diem rate increasing to $83 per night from $77 per night. The rates go into effect Oct. 1, 2013.

Other rate changes include 29 areas shifting to the Continental United States rate of $83 per night.

Federal per diem rates, which are used by government travelers to obtain hotel rooms at a standard discount, are established each year based on market data compiled by Smith Travel Research.

The rate changes were positively received by the American Hotel and Lodging Association's President/CEO Katherine Lugar. "The FY 2014 per diem rates released by GSA are welcome news for government travelers who stay in hotels while traveling on government business," Lugar said. "These rates, which are calculated to reflect actual market room rates, are a key component of an efficient federal travel policy. The methodology used to establish the rates ensure that federal travelers will be able to find hotel rooms at a good value."

The rise in rates is big news for the meetings industry after the GSA chose to freeze government reimbursement rates in 2012. While most industry pros were thankful the rates were not lowered, the freeze kept many government employees from traveling. And while small increases don't seem like much, seeing a gradual rise in available government per diems is a good sign of improvement for the industry as a whole.

A complete list of federal per diem rates can be found at www.gsa.gov/perdiem

 Plan to Converge in Louisiana for First-Ever Rendezvous South 

Shreveport-Bossier, La. - Dozens of meeting planners are set to converge in Shreveport, La., on Dec. 2-4 for an all new hosted-buyer event called Rendezvous South.

This one-stop-shop show is designed specifically for meeting site buyers that need at least 45,000 square feet of convention space and a host hotel for 200 or more peak room nights.

To meet these meeting planners' needs, Rendezvous South has invited the "main decision makers" from several cities across the South that are ready to discuss planners' needs and to wok out a "deal."

Decision makers will include a representative from the city's SMG Convention Center, the convention center hotel and the CVB. Cities include Shreveport-Bossier, Kenner and Baton Rouge, La.; Irving, Texas and others.

Included in the show will be several town hall sessions where meeting planners will be able to discuss event planning pet peeves and challenges in an open air forum where their peers can share insight and advice.

Qualified meeting planners will receive complimentary airfare, accommodations and event registration. Attendees will have the opportunity to experience the revelry of Shreveport-Bossier, La. Separated only by the mighty Red River, Shreveport and Bossier City represent a powerhouse convention destination with a wealth of one-of-a-kind experiences from Vegas-styled gaming action to authentic Louisiana cuisine.

Visit www.RendezvousSouth.com to fill out a qualifying questionnaire.


HOT IDEAS: More Exclusive Social Sharing Apps

As more of us become reluctant to share photos, ideas and life events with everyone on our social networks like Facebook and Twitter, additional social applications are emerging that make sharing more relevant. And, while event-specific apps are ideal during the time of the event, they have a hard time keeping users connected throughout the year. However, more and more “semi-public” apps are emerging that are allowing us to more selectively share content, such as during a meeting, yet provide more widespread networking than an event-specific app.

Here are three apps that limit sharing but keep users connected year round:
Path: This Apple and Android app limits users network size and makes sharing more intimate. More than just like and comment on posts, network followers can smile, laugh, gasp, frown, or love your photos, videos, check-ins, etc. Then, users can search to rediscover these memories by people, seasons, holidays and more.

Quilt: This Apple and Android app has also emerged as a “real-time digital scrapbook” or “quilt” of photos and life moments that is collaboratively stitched together by other users. Within each quilt, users can designate which members of their social circles they’d like to invite, and who they’d like to share with.

Chatter: This desktop, Apple and Android application is focused on business-related sharing and allows you to create private communities for your customers, co-workers and employees, and industry colleagues. The platform allows you to securely share files with colleagues, teams, and even people outside your organization. You can make comments on files, track version control, and subscribe to receive updates the minute anything changes. 


JOLT Act Could Spur International Business Travel

In March, U.S. Representatives Joe Heck (R-NV) and Mike Quigley (D-IL)re-introduced the JOLT Act (Jobs Originating through Launching Travel). Officials with the Global Business Travel Association (GBTA) are urging strong bipartisan support of the act along with other government policies that facilitate international business travel.

“Opening U.S. markets to more international business travelers is exactly what our economy needs,” said Michael W. McCormick, GBTA executive director and COO. “The JOLT Act will reduce cumbersome travel restrictions that slow down international commerce. As international business travel becomes easier, faster and even more secure, trade between U.S. businesses and their international customers and partners will grow. Millions of face-to-face business meetings around the world drive increased corporate revenues, expansion efforts, and jobs creation. Accommodating last-minute but invaluable business travel to U.S. is essential in today’s extremely competitive global marketplace.”

Under the Act, countries that offer tremendous business opportunities, including Brazil - the world’s sixth largest economy with a projected $35 billion business travel market in 2013, could become eligible for the Visa Waiver Program.


2 Things To Lose At Your Next Convention

Lose The Plastic Badge Holders
With a more professional look than those plastic-holder name badges, high-quality nametags are now easier than ever to create yourself through software from Imprint Plus. The kit allows you to create customized magnetic name tags by printing names onto a paper insert that rests in a gold or silver metallic frame that looks permanently engraved.

If name badges are more your thing, go eco-friendly and loose the plastic holders. Badgetec has created heavy duty cardstock that’s specially diecut to the standard name badge size. Once you print the names onto the cardstock, the badges are ready to clip on attendees—without plastic holders—using a special recyclable and reusable clip.

Lose The Balloons
Unlike balloons, eye-catching, wind-blown nylon pennants enliven any event or celebration—and are reusable. Consort Display Group offers a nylon pennant system that comes with 12-foot or 22-foot poles, 8-foot or 15-foot colored pennants, and non-tangling, swiveling brackets that allow the flags to unpredictably “dance” in the wind. 

Delta Air Enhances Its Sleep Experience, Provides Group Services

Delta Air Lines is transforming the sleep experience in the air by offering Westin Heavenly® In-Flight bedding, designed and manufactured exclusively for Delta, in all of its BusinessElite cabins throughout the world beginning in June 2013. BusinessElite customers will receive a Westin Heavenly sleeping pillow and a comforter with extra luxurious loft. Passengers on flights over 12 hours also will receive a lumbar pillow.

In addition, Delta is making investments in several other products and services to revamp the in-flight sleep experience in BusinessElite. These include a white noise channel on Delta Radio, new amenity kits and more full flat-bed seating.

Meanwhile, Delta continues to offer services to meeting planners through the Delta Meeting Network, which offers a host of benefits, including:

•A dedicated team of specialists with personalized
  service and attention to detail;
•A variety of cost-saving options to help you
  stay within budget;
•Earned ticket incentives—the more attendees who
  fly Delta, the more you earn for
  your organization;
•Easy online management at delta.com for
  your attendees; and
•A vast network of global destinations to get your
  attendees to the meeting.

In order to qualify for the Delta Meeting Network program, you must have at least 10 or more participants traveling from at least two or more destinations. 


Futurist J. Walker Smith Headlines At AIBTM 2013

CHICAGO—Keynoting this year’s theme “Defining the Future of Meetings…Together,” J. Walker Smith, principal of The Futures Company, has been chosen to kick off AIBTM’s 2013 exhibition on June 11th. He will present data and insights that demonstrate the continued value of face-to-face relationships in the current “kinship economy”…even in a digital age.

Walker has been described by Fortune magazine as “one of America’s leading analysts on consumer trends.” In his kinship economy, the future is an economy of social relationships, not brand relationships—it means facilitating personal engagement, not managing brand interactions.

“Face-to-face meetings are the catalyst for business growth and shortened sale cycles—despite what technologists and the digital marketplace would have you believe,” said Michael Lyons, exhibition director of AIBTM 2013. “Business is more than ever about building relationships that will never change despite social media, online meetings software and streaming media.”

Carrying the momentum of Smith’s keynote throughout the show, AIBTM 2013 will offer a highly interactive education format to crowdsource attendees’ views on best practices, innovation and new ideas to make business meetings more effective in a challenging global landscape.
The Americas Incentive, Business Travel & Meetings Exhibition (AIBTM) is a leading global exhibition for the U.S. meetings and events industry and takes place from June 11-13, 2013 in Chicago.


U.S. traveler sentiment rises above pre-recession high

Americans' attitudes toward travel are now more positive than the benchmark score recorded just prior to the "Great Recession," according to the latest travelhorizons survey of 2,300 active travelers conducted by marketing services firm MMGY Global.
The Traveler Sentiment Index (TSI), tracked every calendar quarter since March 2007, is a derivative of six factors that measure Americans' attitudes towards travel and serves as a predictor of travel behavior during the coming six months. While the overall TSI has been declining since last April, February marked the first time the TSI surpassed the benchmark score of 100 established in pre-recession March 2007. All six components of the TSI revealed gains in February 2013, with the overall index increasing 10 points in February 2013 (100.8) compared to October 2012 (90.4). The perceived "affordability of travel" powered the score forward, having grown from 102.6 in October 2012 to 114.5 in February 2013. The six TSI factors include interest in travel, time for travel, personal finances available for travel, affordability of travel, quality of travel services and safety of travel.

Business travel intentions also displayed a five-point jump in February, with fully 20 percent of all respondents intending to take at least one overnight business trip during the next six months – up from 15 percent in February 2012, and fully seven points from the 13 percent incidence first recorded in February 2009. This increase may signal the beginning of a robust recovery of demand for business travel services, barring any unforeseen disruption of the continued recovery of the U.S. economy, according to the TSI report.

Meetings Recovery Means Planners Lose Negotiating Power, Venues Gain Leverage


FEBRUARY 25, 2013 - The long-awaited meetings industry recovery is finally under way, shifting the negotiating advantage away from planners to hotels, according to a new study from Colliers PKF Hospitality Research.

While transient and leisure travel began turning around soon after the recession ended in 2009, hotels did not see group demand recover until 2011, according to Robert Mandelbaum, director of research information services for Colliers PKF Hospitality Research.

he major implication of the meetings recovery is that hotels now have the upper hand in negotiations, Mandelbaum told Travel Market Report. “The leverage up until now has been with planners but, due to rising occupancy levels, the leverage is swinging back to the hotel sales manager,” he said.

As a result of planners’ declining negotiating clout on hotel rates, planners are negotiating on other elements, including free Internet access, breakfast, meeting room rental fees, etc., Mandelbaum said. “From a hotel perspective, those items tend to be less profitable than rooms, so they are willing to cede in negotiations as long as they get the rate. Budget expenditures will definitely be higher but they will not be decided on until the last minute,” Mandelbaum said.

U.S. Hotels Report Strong Revenue Per Available Room in January

February 25, 2013 - The U.S. hotel industry reported increases in all three key performance metrics during January 2013, according to data from STR. Overall, the U.S. hotel industry’s occupancy rose 3.6 percent to 51 percent, its average daily rate was up 5.1 percent to $105.96 and its revenue per available room increased 8.8 percent to $54.02.

“January revPAR growth rate was the strongest performance we’ve seen since June 2012,” said Brad Garner, STR’s COO. “The results were driven both by solid ADR and demand gains with Washington D.C., Miami and New York among the top performers. The chain scale segments saw growth across all scales, with Luxury leading in both ADR and revPAR growth rates. Independent hotels also saw strong results this month.”

Hotel Demand Outlook for 2013 Remains Positive According to TravelClick

February 6, 2013 – Hotels continue to see a steady increase in occupancy and revenue performance, according to data from the January 2013 TravelClick North American Hospitality Review (NAHR). When looking at Q1 2013 through Q4 2013, the current outlook is for moderate growth, with continued improvement in average daily rate (ADR) being the key driver.

“Based on TravelClick data, ADR continues to be the main source of RevPAR growth heading into 2013,” said Tim Hart, executive vice president, enterprise research and development, TravelClick. “While both ADR and occupancy are growing – occupancy is improving more slowly while ADR is increasing at a slightly more rapid pace.”

12 Month Outlook (January 2013- December 2013)

Committed occupancy across all segments, for January 2013 through December 2013, is up 2.0 percent compared to a year ago. Based on reservations currently on the books, ADR is up 4.9 percent, compared to the same time last year. Revenue per available room (RevPAR) is up 4.1 percent.

Group sales are the driving force behind occupancy growth in 2013, up 2.2 percent. At this time, it appears that group occupancy is showing the strongest gains in the second and third quarters. The transient segment – made up of individual business and leisure travelers, which has been responsible for the majority of hotel sector growth in the past is up 1.2 percent overall. Business demand, which includes weekday transient negotiated and transient retail segments, is down 2.5 percent while leisure demand, which includes transient discount, transient qualified segments and transient wholesale, is up 3.9 percent.

Group ADR is up 2.8 percent and transient segment ADR is up 6.1 percent compared to last year. Business and leisure rates are up 7.1 and 5.8 percent respectively.

First Quarter (January 2013- March 2013)

For the first quarter of 2013 committed occupancy is up 1.4 percent and ADR is up 4.9 percent.

Group committed occupancy for the first quarter of 2013 is up 1.0 percent while transient is up 1.9 percent. Breaking transient down further into business and leisure, business demand is down 2.4 percent while leisure is up 5.3 percent for the first quarter.

ADR is up 4.9 percent in the first quarter compared to the same time last year. This increase is driven by the transient segment which is up 6.4 percent. Business and leisure rates are up 7.3 and 6.1 percent, respectively. Group segment ADR is up 2.6 percent.

Based on TravelClick’s forward-looking data, February looks to be the strongest month of the quarter with occupancy currently up 4.7 percent and revenue per available room (RevPAR) up 8.0 percent, based on current reservations.


Hyatt Reports Rebound In Group Demand

February 13, 2013 - BusinessTravelNews.com reports that "accelerating group booking trends, both for short-term corporate and long-term association events, are encouraging Hyatt Hotels executives, they said during the company's fourth-quarter earnings call" on Feb. 13.

President and CEO Mark Hoplamazian said December was Hyatt's best month for group booking activity since 2007. Group bookings made in 2013 at U.S. full-service hotels currently are up 4 percent compared with last year's pace. The performance has negated concerns the company had last year about a slowdown of group demand, he said. During the fourth quarter, group revenues increased by 3.3 percent year over year—compared with a 6.9 percent increase in transient room revenues—and group room nights were up only 0.4 percent.

Hyatt's group bookings currently are showing a "bimodal distribution," Hoplamazian said, meaning they largely are either small corporate events with a very short booking window or large association events in the distant future. Hyatt's group booking activity in the technology, retail and manufacturing sectors are showing particular strength.

"Looking at group room revenues, the strength tends to be in the smaller room blocks and smaller-sized meetings," Hoplamazian explained. "The largest meetings are lagging. They're still positive in progression but are lagging the progress and rate increases in the smaller segments."

Group Travel Spend Expected To Rise 5.2% In 2013, GBTA Reports

February 1, 2013 - According to the Global Business Travel Association (GBTA) 2012 Q4 outlook, the business travel forecast for 2013 should be more positive than 2012, provided there is continued easing of economic and political uncertainty - presenting an early indication of greater corporate confidence in spending decisions.

U.S. business travel spending is expected to rise 4.6% in 2013 to $266.7 billion, according to GBTA. 

The key factors in 2013 business travel spending growth are projected to be:
•Increasing international outbound travel spending - projected to rise 5.9%
•Increasing group travel spending - projected to rise 5.2%
•Very modest price inflation—indicating that companies will be spending more real dollars on business trips.

Spending growth in 2013 should begin modestly, at 2.0% in Q1 and 2.9% in Q2, and then pick up the pace with rates of 6.4% in Q3 and 7.2% in Q4.

MPI Reports Domestic Corporate Meetings On The Rise

January 23, 2013 - Meeting Professionals International (MPI) December 2012 Business Barometer noted that domestic corporate meetings continue to grow, while government meetings continue to fall.

Meeting budgets continue to rise at a slow pace, as the corporate sector makes extremely short lead times de facto business practice, according to MPI.

40% of meeting pros have seen an increase in attendance in the past year; and 39% have seen no change. 55% predict more increases over the next year; and 35% predict no change. Attendees are now often participating online, or becoming more interested in regional meetings, according to MPI.

As corporations increasingly make CSR (corporate social responsibility) a business imperative, meetings and events are being affected by more and more demand for sustainable practices and “greening." There are an increasing number of industry standards, benchmarks and guidelines on delivering sustainable events and socially responsible programs, according to MPI.

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