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November 25, 2008

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When we visited Destination Marketing Association International’s CEO Michael Gehrisch at his 2025 M St. office, he told us 27 years in the hospitality business has taught about economic downturn: It’s part of the business cycle.  He says as long as people are doing business, they will need to travel, and to keep them traveling to member cities, DMAI is offering members ideas on how to globalize and use new online tools.  It is also encouraging members to strengthen their Green credentials and to maintain the 25% of their revenue that comes from associations.


Michael and executive assistant Stephanie Ann Russell are helping 1,500 members like NYC and Company, Destination DC and LA Inc to gain a competitive edge and weather an expected 5-10% revenue drop. Michael says he doesn’t expect association travel to drop off much because annual meetings are still big revenue generators, and many professional society members rely on meetings for certifications and continuing education. Michael says, “Associations are even more resilient during difficult times because members are looking for answers.” He also says the brand new LEED Gold David L. Lawrence Convention Center in Pittsburgh is raising the bar for Greening with recycling, composting, natural ventilation and 75% natural lighting. Michael says members are looking to their associations to set the example for Green meetings.


Organizational goals from the emerging futurist Karl Albrecht drawn up at last July’s convention in Las Vegas taught Michael that the three keys for his members are: relevance, visibility and value. Global themes were also a focus of the meeting, and Michael says associations can expand their reach by offering certifications to an Asian market hungry for anything with a U.S. stamp of approval, and networking opportunities to Europeans. Michael got his pink (fuchsia?) Versa tie in Milan while on a visit to Italy with his wife.


To keep members and boost business, DMAI offers myDMAI, a social networking portal, and it is giving 87,000 meeting planners free access to MINT (Meeting Information Network), which has historical information as well as info on dates, rates, and space availability (go to destinationmarketing.org for more info). With it, planners will be able to send RFPs to any destination across the country. When Michael travels to a new city, he likes to travel like a local, so he checks out member-produced Web site: gotravellikealocal.com for events like the recent show by R&B artist Regina Belle that he caught at Georgetown’s Blues Alley.

Is your Association offering new Web functionality to keep members in ‘09? Email Association Editor Abraham Mahshie at: Abraham@bisnow.com

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