Puerto Rico after Irma
Dorado, Puerto Rico, cleans up after the devastation of Hurricane Maria.

Disaster Relief: Plan a Meeting, Help a Community

I applaud the financial donations coming into the many organizations helping communities affected by the recent string of natural disasters in Texas, Florida, Mexico, and the Caribbean, but there is another way to mindfully contribute that can pay “triple dividends” to the people and businesses in these regions:  Give with a meeting!

If your organization has programs coming up in the next 18 months that haven’t yet been placed, consider a destination that has been affected by a recent natural disaster. These areas need to get their economies back in gear and their people working. While helping these people, businesses, and destinations, your leadership team will be raised up for all of the right reasons.

I encourage you to talk to your boss, board of directors, constituents, members and/or suppliers, and let them know that you are proactively taking a meeting to an impacted destination—when it is logistically viable and safe for your participants—such as in southeastern Texas; anywhere throughout the state of Florida; San Juan, Puerto Rico; or perhaps the Bahamas or Mexico. Without changing your original business meeting purposes, you can make a difference by helping others when they are down. This will speak volumes about the character of your organization. The destination, hotel and service company employees and their families will recognize the support at this challenging time, and you will see that your staff, your attendees, and your executive committees will recognize the leadership and character of your organization.

I remember when ASAE (the American Society of Association Executives) took its Board of Directors meeting to New York City in September 2001, right after 9/11, and maintained its Summit Awards program in Washington, D.C., later in September, receiving accolades for courage and leadership. ALHI moved its Industry Advisory Council meeting to New Orleans in the aftermath of Katrina, in recognition and support of the staffs of our hotel community, and it remains as one of our most heartfelt and respected programs in our 30-plus years of conducting the IAC. You can make your own history by deciding to “give a meeting.” 

The resulting “triple dividends” of meeting in a hard-hit area include, first, the benefits to your organization of the meeting program itself, whether that be business, education, networking, or something else. The second dividend is to your circle of influence, which includes your staff, Board of Directors, members, company, branches, and other service suppliers, who will recognize the meaning of “giving a meeting” to a venue in difficult circumstances, and the character of your organization. And the third dividend is to those serving your meeting, from arrival at the airport, to the hotel/resort, through departure. This includes the bell staff, housekeeping, culinary talent, banquet set-up, A/V support, transportation, and décor, plus, those in area businesses that supply the hotels. Ultimately, the dollars roll down to the local economy, and these individuals, their families, and the community will positively benefit by your program being held in their destination.

While the golf course might have a few less trees, in their place you will see bigger smiles and an appreciation for giving! I encourage you to reach out to your hotel partners’ global sales organization and book a program soon in an impacted destination. The commitment alone is a relief. Everyone will feel good about it!

David Gabri is chairman of Associated Luxury Hotels, an independent global sales organization serving the hospitality industry and the parent company of Associated Luxury Hotels International.

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