Having made a fortune in hotels and casinos and dabbled previously in airlines, President Donald Trump has the potential to be the meetings and events industry’s best friend. On the other hand, his lack of governing experience and occasionally divisive comments could ultimately do more harm than good to the United States and its economy—fears stoked already by the recent immigration ban now tied up in court battles. All that’s known so early into the new administration is the country is entering a great unknown with an unconventional leader. “We have to cheer for him to do a good job because we all depend on him,“ says Michael Dominguez, chief sales officer at MGM Resorts International. We talked with Dominguez and other industry leaders to present best-case, worst-case and most-likely scenarios for key issues affecting you.
Fact: “The president has been in the meetings and events space for a long time,” notes Michael Massari, chief sales officer at Caesars Entertainment. That means pitches from the Meetings Mean Business Coalition and other industry lobbyist groups won’t fall on deaf ears. Trump should be willing to implement policies promoting face-to-face meetings, including staying the course with a move from the Office of Management and Budget to free funds for government officials to travel to meetings. Likewise, a pro-business president may also give corporate groups the confidence to expand their budgets to add events. Planners may also take a cue from Trump’s tweets to engage audiences via social media to encourage larger attendance at events. “He realizes face-to-face is so much more powerful than video, direct mail and telephone communication,” says Massari.
Trump’s attempt to “drain the swamp” could force government agencies to look for ways to cut back on the budget. As we all know, conferences and meetings were the first to get the ax when the economy went south in 2008. Also, Trump’s effectiveness at reaching the masses through Twitter could push some organizations to push out messaging via social media and email instead of at company events.
There is more than enough reason to be optimistic meetings will benefit from Trump because of his familiarity with the industry. “We’re not starting at square one; we’re halfway through the movie,” says Dominguez, a co-chair of the Meetings Mean Business Coalition. “That’s a good position to be in.” Whether Trump’s previous experience translates into actionable policy remains to be seen, but his presence in the Oval Office should benefit meetings in some fashion.