Black Meetings and Tourism

May/June 2012

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Commerce recently released data showing that 62 million international visitors traveled to the U.S. in 2011, gen- erating a record $153 billion in receipts and a $43 billion trade surplus. International and domestic tourism spend- ing increased 8.1 percent, supporting an additional 103,000 jobs for a total of 7.6 million Americans employed in travel and tourism industries or in industries that support them. Further, 1.2 million jobs are supported directly by international traveler spending within the United States and on U.S. carriers. More than 125 family reunion planners, professionals and representatives from Atlanta attractions and business- ATLANTA CONVENTION & VISITOR'S BUREAU (ACVB) BRIDGES GAP FOR FAMILY REUNIONS es gathered April 20 at the East Point On Point for Your Family Reunion workshop. The workshop connected meeting planners with the elements needed to make a reunion a success, bridging the planning gap all in one location. Attendees met with catering vendors, representatives from parks and recreational facilities, attractions, hotels and various event services companies, showcasing Atlanta's functionality for reunion events. A panel of Atlanta meeting professionals, moderated by a local meeting planner, focused on the ins-and-outs of planning a reunion event and the nuances of working with vendors and facility representatives. The ACVB workshop was a reflection of the ACVB's role as East Point's destination marketing organization and its commitment to creating substantial economic development for the City of East Point. Content of the event focused on the ACVB as an essential tool for a family reunion planner. In the wake of a General Services Administration (GSA) Inspector General's (IG) report investigating an U.S. TRAVEL URGES MEASURED RESPONSE TO GSA IG REPORT October 2010 conference, the U.S. Travel Association urged federal lawmakers today to carry out a measured and appropriate response to the findings of the report. "The findings of the IG report clearly detail instances of inappropriate spending and poor decision making on the part of federal employees," said Roger Dow, president and CEO of the U.S. Travel Association. "At a time when Washington is laser-focused on creating jobs and curbing wasteful spending, we hope policymakers will remember that responsible travel can help accomplish these goals.We know through repeated studies that travel for face-to-face meetings increases worker productivity in the private and public sectors.We also know that meetings, conferences and events are critical to our economy and support 845,000 U.S. jobs. We hope Congress and the Administration will consider these facts when deciding how to appropriately respond to the event from October 2010." The IG's report comes at a time when the Obama Administration has already taken significant steps to strengthen federal travel regulations. In September 2011, the Office of Management and Budget issued a memoran- dum to Executive Branch agencies requiring a comprehensive review of all conference spending policies. In November 2011, President Obama issued an Executive Order directing federal agencies to reduce government travel by adopting a "local first" policy for conferences and employee travel. If properly followed, federal travel rules and regulations enforce competi- tive bidding, cost limitations on food, beverages and lodging, and a host of other restrictions that ensure limited spending while allowing productive gov- ernment business to take place. "The American people demand two things of their government: to be responsible stewards of their hard-earned ROGER DOW tax dollars and to provide valuable services that benefit this country. Federal travel, when conducted responsibly, fulfills both of those promises," said Dow. "Unfortunately, a single instance of irresponsible decision making has the potential to cast a negative light on the millions of men and women who work every day to make America's meet- ings, conventions and events industry the best in the world. It is important to remember that this particular event was the result of a failure to follow federal travel regulations that were already in place to protect the misuse of tax- payer funds." The U.S. Travel Association is the national, non-profit organization representing all components of the travel industry that generates $1.9 trillion in economic output and supports 14.4 million jobs. U.S. Travel's mission is to increase travel to and within the United States. Visit MASON JR. Black Meetings & Tourism May/June 2012: 9

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