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Yes indeed, for the second time since moving to NYC from Chicago in October 2005, I received the dreaded news this week that my position has been eliminated "due to economic circumstances" in my industry.

Ironically, the economic circumstances have swung 180 degrees over that short period of time.  Back in 2005, I had been promoted from the sales department at a hotel in Chicago to that hotel company's Global Sales office here in NYC - with responsibility for promoting six chains representing over 3500 hotels on six continents - pretty heady stuff.

Unfortunately for me at the time, hotels were operating at very high occupancies with very solid rate growth, so the brand managers decided that the Global Sales organization needed to be scaled back to reduce the cost of sales.  Naturally, I was among those to go based on the "last in, first out" theory.

This week's situation after the jump, where "last in, first out" will once again seal my fate.  I'm going to throw some stuff out there that I don't expect will be very favorably received here, but I think it needs to be said.  Curious? Read on...

After the first layoff, I got picked up pretty quickly by another global hotel company, and had the good fortune to be able to visit Hong Kong, Kuala Lumpur, Jakarta, Singapore & Dubai plus a lot of great domestic destinations as well on the travel industry tradeshow circuit.

A year later, I got recruited away by yet another global hospitality company (my current employer for a few more weeks) and have spent the past 2+ years matching up meeting, event & convention planners with my company's global network of hotels, resorts, destination management companies and production companies.  Good stuff. Until last fall.

The AIG "junket scandal" poured fuel on the fire of an already struggling industry.  Much was said and written in righteously indignant terms over how AIG was treating its executives to a "lavish retreat" at a "swanky resort & spa."  Unfortunately, that story was not true, but truth in reporting was lost under an avalanche of outrage. To make matters worse, AIG, and others such as Wells Fargo caved under the glare of the media spotlight and cancelled ALL of their meetings.

So, an already troubled industry began taking hit after hit after hit as companies, and not just those receiving TARP funds, cancelled meetings & events out of "perception concerns" (after all, who wants to have some local hack "i-team" reporter pop out from behind a potted palm and stick a mic in their face while asking loaded questions that'll eventually inevitably be edited down to a tabloid-ish scandal story with "film at eleven"?).  

Example of such tabloid-style reporting, with no quotes from any of the propestive attendees, or from anyone at the affected hotels/resorts, with no quotes from anyone in any way affiliated with the meetings industry (emphasis here and there is mine):

Bad news for mortgage and insurance officials, well, more bad news on top of the whole housing crisis, credit crunch, economic meltdown thing.  But actually this is bad news for a very specific group of mortgage and insurance workers, the ones who work for Wells Fargo and were about to get to go on a really fancy work-related expenses-paid conference in Vegas.

Now their trip is off.  The Associated Press noticed a bunch of rooms reserved in swanky Vegas hotels and discovered that despite being bailed out to the tune of $25 billion taxpayers, executives at Wells Fargo were still—still planning expensive trips for their staff.

The appropriate amount of outrage ensued from lawmakers and people who pay taxes and Wells Fargo canceled the Vegas outing.  Although, while they were at it, the company spokesperson also went after the Associated Press‘s reporting saying, it‘s not a junket, it is a recognition event for hard-working team members.

Noted, a recognition event in Vegas.  Like you do.

So another day, another maddening story about what bailed-out executives think is an acceptable expense now that they are funded with public money, now that they have been bailed out.

Sorry Rachel Maddow, but I really wish you'd done a bit better job of really examining this story, and not just taking the easy route of fueling the outrage fire.  Cities like Vegas, already struggling through the recession are now struggling big time w/ bankruptcies looming, and tens (hundreds?) of thousands of jobs (yes, including LOTS of union jobs) being lost.

So, on behalf of those in my industry, I ask you to consider the following:

In the US alone, the meeting and event industry is responsible for 15% of all travel, creates over an estimated $200 billion in spending annually, generates nearly 2.4 million jobs and provides around $40 billion in tax revenue, and this doesn’t begin to quantify the global impact.

It's a .pdf, but please also take a look at this letter to Members of Congress written by CEOs of ten top hotel companies, normally competitors, united in an effort to tone down the rhetoric.  And note, when they met w/ the Obama Administration it was in the same spirit, and not with a hand-out for any bailout dollars.

So, I could say an awful lot more because it's a business that I've invested a lot of my life in, but I''ll leave it at that for now.  As for me, I'm good at what I do so I expect that I'll land on my feet again like last time.  Not that it's fun to be laid off, but I'll survive it.


Originally posted to CDH in Brooklyn on Sun Apr 05, 2009 at 11:00 AM PDT.

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