My mother always told me not to discuss politics or religion with people you didn’t know. Good advice to avoid any conflict, but I am going to ignore it for this blog.
Last month the U.S. Supreme Court upheld the third version of President Donald Trump’s travel ban on citizens from seven nations (five of which are predominantly Muslim). Only a few weeks earlier, President Trump imposed tariffs on Canadian steel and aluminium on “security grounds.” These are political events but they have a direct impact on Canadians and some will cause genuine concern among Canadian event participants travelling to or through the United States.
“We need to use our economic power to show the United States that there is a commercial cost for policies that are discriminatory and non-inclusive.”
When the original travel ban was announced, I was running several events in the United States for Canadian clients. Upon the announcement of the ban, several participants contacted me to cancel as they were from the nations affected. Even though they were landed immigrants, they were concerned that they might be turned back at the border. A colleague was operating an incentive travel program in Asia at that time, and we had to reroute several attendees so the participants’ travel routes did not include a U.S. layover.
Is it time for Canadian planners to avoid U.S. destinations? I do not ask that question lightly—I have a number of friends who work for hotels, CVBs or venues throughout the United States and I hate to see them impacted by any Canadian “boycott.” However, with an American President who seems to believe that the United States can bully anyone into submission or compliance with his desires, it may be time to try and use our economic clout to demonstrate our displeasure with the current policies. Only when U.S. citizens are directly affected by the impacts of these punitive policies will Canadians be able to hope for a reversal in direction.
Meetings & Conventions has reported that both GBTA and ACTE have expressed concern with the economic impact of the travel bans. MPI issued a statement last December calling for a need to balance US security with the ability to facilitate travel that our business requires, and has published at least one article pointing out that the travel ban is forcing associations to rethink their event destinations.
I think it is time for our Canadian event community to try and direct meetings and incentive programs to non-American destinations. Should I be bold enough to go even further and suggest Canadians not use Trump venues for any events? We need to use our economic power to show the United States that there is a commercial cost for policies that are discriminatory and non-inclusive. As Dale Carnegie wrote in How to Win Friends and Influence People, “when dealing with people, remember you are not dealing with creatures of logic, but with creatures bristling with prejudice and motivated by pride and vanity.” Moral outrage will have little impact but falling sales and hospitality dollars may impact the government’s pride.
~ Les Selby has been a corporate, independent, and third-party event professional for more than 28 years. He has earned both his Certified Meeting Professional (CMP) designation and his Global Certification in Meeting Management (CMM). Inducted into Meeting + Incentive Travel’s Hall of Fame in 2009, Les is an active member of Meeting Professionals International (MPI). He served on the Toronto chapter’s Board, was the 2000-2001 chapter president, and currently serves as a member of the MPI Foundation Canadian Council. In 1997, Les was recognized as Planner of the Year by the MPI Toronto chapter, and received the President’s Award for 2009. He can be reached at email@example.com.