MPI Blog

From the CEO

The Looming Threats Facing the Event Industry


These days, I find myself wishing for the utopia described in countless storybooks and songs, and even the happy place I have concocted in my mind. I cannot be the only person to feel this way, right?

“Someday I’ll wish upon a star
Wake up where the clouds are far behind me
Where trouble melts like lemon drops
High above the chimney top
That’s where you’ll find me
Oh, somewhere over the rainbow bluebirds fly
Birds fly over the rainbow
Why then, oh, why can’t I?
Excerpted from “Somewhere Over The Rainbow”

- E.Y. Harburg, Harold Arlen

The barrage of bad news affecting our industry feels so heavy—U.S. President Donald Trump’s appeal to the U.S. Supreme Court to reinstate the travel ban, electronic devices being banned on some international flights, the proposal to defund Brand USA, efforts to pass a bathroom bill in Texas and terrorist acts at major events like the bombing at the Ariana Grande concert in Manchester, England, this May.

It feels like our industry is under attack, so-to-speak. Proposed limits on the free flow of people and thus our ability to meet face to face threatens the innovation and economic development this incredible industry drives. To meet requires the free movement of people—the enablement and encouragement of travel and tourism. “When we meet, we change the world” is the ability to meet, to gather together; thus, any threats and restrictions to travel have a direct and negative impact on our great industry.

If you attended MPI’s European Meetings & Events Conference (EMEC) earlier this year or World Education Congress (WEC) last month, you heard me speak to the obligation we all have now more than ever to tell the story of the value of face-to-face meetings and the many intangible benefits of travel.


Together, we need to encourage and facilitate the free flow of travel. I cannot reiterate enough that we can and should do something about the risk to our industry because the reality is the issues we’re facing will not simply melt away like lemon drops. If not to protect the innovation and progress driven by our industry, then we should do so at a minimum for the pure economic impact—nearly US$700 billion is spent globally in annual direct meeting and event expenditures.

So, let’s unite and be vocal—write government officials, share stories on social media and participate in calls for action promoted by MPI and our industry partners, the Meetings Mean Business coalition, Joint Meetings Industry Council, U.S. Travel Association and others.

About the Author

Paul Van Deventer
President & Chief Executive Officer at Meeting Professionals International

Paul Van Deventer joined the MPI Global Team in April 2013 as President and Chief Executive Officer (CEO). In this role, he leads the strategic direction of both MPI’s global association and the MPI Foundation, with responsibility for managing its global staff, operating budget, membership programs and community services.