Dealing with Weaponization of Travel Concerns

Author: Convene Editors       

Convene frequently features some of the most popular topics being discussed on PCMA’s Catalyst forum, which offers members a platform to — as the website says — communicate and collaborate. Here’s a selection from a recent Catalyst discussion.

Heartbeat Bill

“I’m looking to see if anyone is [giving] any kind of response to their membership on the states that are passing the heartbeat bill [regarding abortion] if your meeting is taking place there,” Jody Egel, director of meetings and events at the American College of Chest Physicians, wrote on the PCMA Catalyst forum. “Our annual is in New Orleans in October and Louisiana just passed the heartbeat bill. I’m wondering if we should address it or not — curious to know what others are doing. Thanks!”

We’ve not run into this yet with these bills, but experienced a similar situation in 2017 with Texas’ proposed bathroom bill. Our annual event was in Texas that year, and California also placed Texas on their travel ban list (which meant state employees were unable to travel to the event — a blow to us).

We decided to address the issue head on because it had an effect on part of the constituency. But, we also felt the proposed law, if passed, was in conflict with our core values. So, for us, it made sense to respond — otherwise, we felt people would question our decision making (we decided to stay on, and the law was not passed).

Our director sent a letter to our constituents explaining the issue, how the proposed law was in conflict with our core values, emphasized our commitment to diversity, and shared what we were doing on our end to support the issue at large. We created a web page with resources on how the field could support the issue (if they so wished). Each year, we donate to a charity on behalf of attendees and speakers — so our charity was related to the cause at hand (and we made it so attendees could donate as well). We also tried to explain that, while the state itself was considering the law, the city was not supportive of it and we noted what the city was doing. Finally, because we had a part of our constituency that could not attend, we played up our virtual meeting option, and added more streamed content to assist those who couldn’t attend. Happy to share our letter with you if it’s helpful.

— Mariellen Morris, Director of Conferences, Public Responsibility in Medicine and Research

If a law doesn’t directly affect our mission or members, we stay away from it.

— Karin Fitzgerald, Chief Operating Officer, United States Geospatial Intelligence Foundation (USGIF)

The Meetings Mean Business Coalition has recently released a toolkit developed by the U.S. Travel Association and Destinations International that offers strategies for response and communications for the type of concern that you are referencing, commonly now referred to as the “weaponization of travel.”

— Sam Bhandarkar, CMP, CASE, Event Placement Director, LRP Publications, Inc.


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