Thursday, February 24, 2011

A small(er) world

When I was a little girl, we didn’t do much traveling. If we did, it was taking the family fifth wheel and parking it at a lake for two weeks. It was a much slower pace, a la Ozzie and Harriet. Fast forward to the travel experience of my own children and it is in stark contrast. When they were in grade 4 and 7 respectively, they traveled to Hawaii with their grandparents. The year they graduated, they went on a European vacation. In the past 18 month period, my daughter has traveled to the Cuba, the Bahamas, New York, Las Vegas and Mexico. They have had passports for so long, they have renewed them multiple times.

When I was little, traveling out of Country was like wanting to own a trampoline. It was something rich kids got to do and have.

The world was huge! You never would have dreamed that ordinary folk could just jump on a plane and fly to China or Japan or even Toronto. The price of fuel made this possible. In the past 20 years, air travel is not just something that the rich can participate in….. Slashed fares, bargains and the use of airmiles put air travel within reach of almost everyone.

Once again, the price of fuel is forcing change. Dr. Ian Lee, Professor at Sprott School of Business at Carleton University in Ottawa, and panelist at the recent GMIC Sustainable Meetings Conference, quoted fascinating statistics from research that indicated that if fuel prices remain at their current levels that only five airlines may remain in business in Europe. Wow! What will that mean for North American airlines? We are already feeling the squeeze with the implementation of extra bag charges, seating priority charges, etc. The airlines are feeling the squeeze as well.

If airline travel prices itself out of the picture for us “normal folk”, what will that mean to the meetings industry? What will that mean for Associations that rely on the revenue from annual meetings? What will that mean for convention centres and hotel chains that also rely on the revenue?

If the meetings industry and it’s vast network of planners and suppliers, is to survive this massive shift, we have to begin implementing strategies immediately. We can’t have a wait and see attitude.


When you are proactive, you are in a position of power. When you are reactive, you are in a defensive position….you have your back against the wall and are defending the palace gates. It is not a good place to be.

What can we proactively do now to be able to address this issue effectively?

  1. Continue implementing and improving the hybrid meeting model – It is an additional revenue stream that is growing and improving. Consider giving equal planning consideration to the hybrid attendee experience. Don’t let it be a last minute add on. It may outpace the traditional model in the future.
  2. Think Sustainable Event Chain – Shauna McKinley recently wrote a blog post titled “Sustainable Event Chain: Can we Build it?” where she addressed making events better by “connecting them as a chain – from event to event – in order to maximize economic and environmental efficiency”.
  3. Think carefully about the event content and ensure there is a substantial ROI for attendees. This may mean taking an organizations’ previous model of hosting four quarterly meetings and replacing it with two larger meetings augmented by smaller regional meetings.
  4. “Don’t lock your mind into a rigid assumption of what the future will look like” (Dr. Karl-Henrik Robert – 2011 GMIC Sustainable Meetings Conference, Portland)

Let’s face it. The rising cost of fuel will impact us greatly. For some, it will make their world a little smaller due to the cost of travel. For others, it will mean rethinking how we do business to meet the challenges ahead.



Shawna McKinley said...

Thanks for the post and the mention Judy! The stat shared by Dr. Lee had a huge impact on me too. And if you connect it with Dr. Robert's session the following day and consider it's likely not a question of if, but when the scenario becomes quite scary. I've found I'm asking myself in the days following: so what to do about it? I'm inspired by the hybrid meeting experience we had at GMIC this week and am in complete agreement with your first post. I love that the hybrid experience never gave any of us a sense we were disadvantaged because someone was unable to be there in person, or that we had to make special accommodations to have them at the table in our teams. It was a universal sentiment of "This is way cooler than any conference experience ever", whether you were interacting on Twitter, via Skype or team blogging. It was also interesting to talk to those who were at the event, but didn't engage in the virtual dialogue. They seemed left with a sense of having missed out on something by only engaging in the 'in-person' bits. What a shift!

The Green-Eyed Event Planner said...

Thanks for the comment Shawna. I also noticed that I spelled your name incorrectly in my sorry, that will not happen again.

Having multiple platforms for attendee's to engage in, i.e. twitter, skype, blogging, Linkedin, etc. enhanced the experience and ensured that the conversations would continue post event.

It has become a model for the future.