Roger Rickard has been a voice for industry advocacy and for individuals in our industry for some time.

Like Roger, my interest and involvement in politics and the political and advocacy process goes “way back.”

For me, it began with a campaign on my playground for a U.S. presidential candidate in the early ’50s, and at that same time organizing street fairs (Was my fate to be in this industry sealed then?!) to raise money for polio research. This was after Alan, my friend and next door neighbor, contracted the horrible disease when we were test cases for the vaccine.

I was tremendously moved by the Marjory Stoneman Douglas students who, after the horror of the massacre at their school, organized worldwide events in just five weeks.

I was further moved by attending the DC Rally and hearing all the students, and one student in particular who uses the acronym “REV”: Register – Educate – Vote.

I wondered this year as I have for many why Global Meetings Industry Day (GMID) didn’t have REV as a guiding theme for our industry. Coincidentally, GMID was held on April 12, 2018, coinciding with Yom Hashoah, a day on which the world commits to remembering that #NeverAgain will we see the horrors of a Holocaust. 

Though we continue to see it in too many countries.

I wondered why at each GMID event we didn’t have voter registration or at the least information about issues in that city/state/country that will impact our industry. I reached out to Roger to see if perhaps he, too, felt an opportunity was again missed. After an exchange, he agreed to participate in this newsletter after GMID 2018.

I am grateful to Roger for his advocacy and for teaching others, and for his willingness to participate in this May 2018 edition of the Friday With Joan newsletter, the 50th anniversary of my first vote in a U.S. election.

If in editing his comments we have made any errors, we apologize.

Note that emphasis in italics and/or bold is the work of the author and editors.

Q1. Although we’ve known each other for many years, there is much I don’t know about you and more that I know our readers would like to know. Tell us about your background, how and when the “policy bug” or political bug bit you, and what you do now.

Roger: I often say I have two hats in my professional life. One is all about advocacy and the political world. The second around the hospitality, travel, and meetings industry. The two have been interwoven throughout my life.

I began as an advocate for citizen involvement at age of 13 by working on political campaigns. At 18 I ran for a local county post against an incumbent who was in office longer (22 years) than I had been on this Earth. I won the election by five (5) votes. That day I learned the lesson that every single vote counts.

I was educated in political science at Penn State, served as legislative staff for the Pennsylvania State Senate, and have worked on many local, regional and state campaigns, as well as numerous U.S. presidential campaigns.

A meetings boycott in Arizona tied together both hats as the company I owned lost a fair amount of meetings business due to the boycotts. I knew I had a responsibility to speak out and become active to protect and defend the meetings industry.

I served on the government affairs committee of MPI where we developed and lead MILAD, the Meetings Industry Legislative Action Day, a coalition of 11 industry partners, to go to the halls of the U.S. Congress.

I developed a citizen advocate education program for MPI that was delivered to almost all North American chapters. This lead to other advocacy opportunities.

In 2008 I created Voices In Advocacy® to educate, engage and activate supporters for an organizations advocacy effort. In 2012 I authored the 7 Actions of Highly Effective Advocates.

My advocacy work spans a diverse cross-section of organizations in industries that include agricultural, financial, medical and construction, and of course hospitality and meetings.

My involvement in the meetings and events industry is particularly robust, having contributed work with AH&LA, ASAE, DI, EIC, GBTA, HSMAI, IAEE, MMB, MPI and PCMA.

[For links to these organizations, look at the EIC website].

I can be contacted through any of these links:

Website: www.VoicesInAdvocacy.com

Twitter: @AdvocacyVoices

LinkedIn: www.linkedin.com/in/rogerrickard

Podcast: https://voicesinadvocacy.podbean.com

Email: roger@VoicesInAdvocacy.com

Q2a. Why should those who work in hospitality, and especially those who are meeting professionals, be interested in their own governments’ (local, state, provincial, federal, etc.) proposed policies and legislative initiatives?

Roger: One, for knowledge, which is always a good thing. Two, to help drive influence.

Governments have impact on many major issue areas that effect the success of individuals as well as the meetings industry in general. Issues such as safety and security, taxes, infrastructure, education, crime (including cyber), transportation, data privacy, etc.

We have the right and obligation to communicate to our elected officials; to tell our side of the story; to make them aware of our concerns, desires and wishes. Without us telling our story, who will?

Q2b. I think it’s safe to say you and I agree that people should be news consumers, whether it’s reading digital or print newspapers and other periodicals in and outside the industry, watching news programs and/or receiving issue alerts. Tell us the best ways in which individuals can be/become informed about issues that may impact their meetings and where they are held.

Roger: Joan, you just gave some great examples [in your email to me]. My key to being informed is diverse viewpoints. I will seek out differing sources to see as may sides of an issue as possible.

Most media have a bias one way or the other. It is important to understand this bias and view it through the prism they created. We live in a world that has more information available than in any other point in history.

If one wants or needs more specific information, one just needs to Google or otherwise search their specific questions.

[Joan’s note: I have alerts set up for specific topics, including “hotel taxes,” “tourism taxes” and “hotel mergers,” and use bizjournals.com for cities clients are considering or have contracted hotels in; for hotel names in those cities; for much more].

Q3. In what ways can our industry better educate on a regular basis about issues impacting our industry? What do you think are the top five issues (that aren’t all taxes!) that will be initiated in states, at the federal level by legislation or executive order or by a Supreme Court ruling in the coming year?

Roger:

  1. Rebuilding our aging and crumbling infrastructure. People are less inclined to travel if it is difficult to get to and from our meetings and events. The American Society of Civil Engineers gave American airport infrastructure a D rating in 2017.

    Additionally, America's aviation infrastructure ranks 9th in the world, with one in five flights canceled or delayed, and 75 percent of routes are dominated by one airline having more than 50 percent of the market share. Better highways, transit and passenger rail will improve access to cities and hotels.
  2. Safety and Security. We face ever-present threats from acts of terrorism and other security emergencies. The exhibitions industry is advancing safe and security procedures with EMSSI (the Exhibitions and Meetings Safety & Security Initiative). The industry is working with the Department of Homeland Security through its Safety Act Office in a coordinated approach to create standards and procedures to protect our attendees, employees and facilities. This program will roll out later this year.

    As an industry we also must support trusted traveler programs that help our attendees alleviate long security lines and free up security resources to focus on unknown travelers.
  3. Hotel booking scams and group room poachers. The U.S. Stop Online Booking Scams Act: H.R. 2495 and S.1164. This legislation is currently working its way through Congress and addresses the issues of online hotel booking scams and group room poachers by giving the Federal Trade Commission additional authority to crack down on these practices. Readers can go to Congress.gov and type in the bill number to learn more and then contact their member of congress and ask them to co-sponsor this legislation.
  4. Meeting destination boycotts due to legislative actions taken by state legislatures. As an industry, we must ask state legislatures to consider the potential economic and negative image impact on their communities by making them aware of the economic significance of not only current business on the books but also the lost opportunities for the future.

[Joan’s note: DI (Destinations International) has produced a study about boycotts you can access here. For various reasons that have to do with organizations’ bylaws or missions, constituencies or customers, boycotts may be part of their necessary actions.

[Read more here about what one association did to attempt to influence an issue and, unable to do so to the mission of their work, made a decision to cancel contracts and move their meeting.

[Their decision to leave a destination was well-thought out and resulted in more actions and policies for conducting site and destination selection].

Q4. To the best of my knowledge, the industry, through Meetings Mean Business (MMB), the Events Industry Council (EIC) and the Travel Industry Association (TIA), the most prominent meetings and hospitality umbrella groups, have no statistics about how many of those actively working in hospitality and meetings are registered to and do vote. As I recall, there were some restrictions put in place in the U.S. a few years ago on groups actively registering voters at events.

What are industry associations and chapters in the U.S. permitted to do to register people to vote?

Roger: Any organization can conduct a nonpartisan voter registration drive and I highly recommend that chapters or organizations do so.* My firm works to assist organizations that want to conduct a voter registration drive. What they cannot do is suggest or recommend a political party affiliation to the new registrant.

Individuals can go to www.usa.gov/register-to-vote to learn the easy, basic steps of registering to vote.

National Voter Registration Day is Tuesday, Sept. 25, 2018.

[WHAT an opportunity for industry organizations and chapters to remind people at programs, on their websites and to provide links to find out if one is registered, especially now that many U.S. states have automatic voter registration. Learn more here and here].

Non-partisan means that one cannot suggest registering under a specific party. It does not preclude discussing issues or advocating for issues that may impact our industry.

[*Joan’s note: I’m with Roger! We need to do more.

[In comments from EIC and MMB, I was told it was a good idea to consider in election years.

[I suggest we do it consistently and remind people of the influence they can have throughout the year].

Q5. Lastly, if it were up to you, Roger, what would an ideal GMID event look like if the mission is as paraphrased, to rally industry advocates … to emphasize the importance of meetings?

Roger: GMID is a great celebratory event that for one day showcases the meetings industry. GMID is a wonderful feel-good day, and there is nothing wrong with that. In my opinion [and Joan's!] that is not enough.

My wish for GMID would be a day to educate key stakeholder groups from outside of the meetings industry about the value of meetings and the value of the meetings industry. These key stakeholder groups are elected officials at all governmental levels from local to national, and business leaders at the C-suite level.

I also wish GMID would evolve in its scope by incorporating a day of activism and education with elected officials. Let’s move forward to educate, engage and activate support for the important work of the meetings industry. GMID can be and should be so much more.

In the U.S. we should hold a legislative action day in Washington, D.C., and around the country in state capitals. Those that would like to come to D.C. would have appointments set with their members of congress or their staffs. The coalition of meetings industry organizations has plenty of chapters throughout the U.S. that could work in a unified voice to manage the state capital visits.

One builds influence when they are prepared to speak up and share their story about the value they and their work bring to society. Meetings bring great value to society in countless ways.

History changes and the world advances when people meet face to face.

Joan's final note: Thanks, Roger, for the best 50th Anniversary of My First Vote present anyone could ever have given. Now, readers, let us know here about your status and interest in voting.

Related Reading From the April 2018 Edition of Friday With Joan

Click here to view additional content in the 05.04.18 Friday With Joan newsletter.