by Loren G. Edelstein | June 12, 2017

Debra Sexton, president and CEO of the Professional Convention Management Association, opened the organization's education conference today with a panel called "C-Suite Predictions to Propel Your Business Event Strategy Forward," featuring Jonathan M. Tisch, chairman and CEO of Loews Hotels, and Fred Dixon, president and CEO of NYC & Co., New York City's convention bureau.
 
The conference, which focuses on learning styles and event design, began Sunday with an opening general session called "Designing for Behavior Change," followed by a Broadway-themed Tony Awards viewing party at the New York Sheraton. The program continues through Wednesday morning, after which meeting-planner participants have the option of taking New York City fam tours.
 
This morning's panelists spoke on the impact of the changes in U.S. travel policy on international-visitor numbers and habits, noting that already in 2017, New York City alone has lost 700,000 visitors from outside the U.S.; Dixon said each international traveler who comes to the city spends $2,000, twice what domestic travelers spend.
 
"We hear it all the time; trips are being canceled," said Tisch. "We have groups canceling because one person is from a country subject to the travel ban."
 
Added Dixon, "It would be really nice if we could control the borders. But we don't. Knock on wood, New York City is doing great. What we're concerned about is the long-term effect of the notion that the United States is not a welcoming place. Our message is we welcome you today as much as we ever have. New York is an international city, and we belong to the world as much as we belong to America, and all are welcome in New York."
 

Talking about how the United States currently is perceived abroad, Tisch said, "Words matter, and people all over the world are listening. Is that the message we want to send across this globe, that we are not a welcoming country? Under the Obama administration, there were frequent meetings with leaders from the travel industry where there was dialog. In this administration, not so much. One or two CEOs from the travel industry have been invited, but there have not been discussions about issues of concern to our business."

Tisch is not giving up hope for the future of the industry: "There is so much good in the world and so much to be grateful for, and I think our industry embodies that."