Not even a year old and Meeting Planners Unite, an association created to help independent meeting planners as a direct result of this year’s ongoing commission cuts, is offering healthcare to its members.
Now that its first live event was held earlier this month, Prevue spoke with David Bruce, the association’s founder and executive director, about his thoughts on the state of the industry as we head into 2019.
What is the significance of adding healthcare coverage for members of the association?
This is the most important item we have added since our inception. Heathcare is the biggest concern families have to protect them, and our adding healthcare for our members gives them one less distraction in their daily list of distractions. For many years, small businesses and specifically independent meeting-planning agencies have either had to roll the dice with just a catastrophic coverage plan or have had to pay exorbitant pricing by the standard insurance companies. Our plan addresses the day-to-day coverage along with adding a catastrophic coverage plan to the mix—all at rates far under what it costs through a traditional plan.
What other benefits do members list as a priority?
What we are working on is liability insurance, E and O Insurance mostly. For the new agency, [it’s also about] how to get a CLIA or IATAN number so that they can effectively receive commission payments. Along with these type of concerns, our members are looking at new ways to increase their income through our members or how to be able to lower their liabilities and make their businesses that much more efficient.
What news about the association do you have for meeting planners heading into 2019?
I wish I could tell you what is coming in the next month and throughout 2019. Who would have known the changes our industry has dealt with in 2018—probably, more has changed in 2018 than has changed in the past 10 years. I am not a pessimist, however, so what I will say is that should the industry go through a negative adjustment, we, as independents, will need to be able to react quickly and protect our clients’ interests.
What seem to be the biggest concerns of your members as we head into next year?
Our member planners are united in saying that our clients come first, as “if you take care of your client, your client will take care of you.” This has been the calling card for our hoteliers, their property owners, et al, for many years. Unfortunately, this past year, many hoteliers have developed a level of greed, which has changed the “partnership” to be quite one sided.
That being said, our “partnership” is now with our CVB and DMO partners and less with the hotelier who has become far more myopic than ever before. Our members are looking at this relationship far differently; hopefully, in the coming year, MPU will find new and exciting partnerships within the hotel community and certainly with great convention bureaus (Birmingham, Ala.; Newport Beach, Calif.; Tampa, Fla.; and Montreal, for example), who see the importance of having a strong relationship with the independent and will enjoy these relationships with increased business for their cities.