by Loren G. Edelstein | April 01, 2015
M&C's April 2015 Research column asked meeting professionals for their opinions on meeting in destinations that pass laws that some citizens perceive as discriminatory. Aside from answering our questions, we invited readers to share any other comments they might have on the topic, a sampling of which we present below.

• Bigotry is not good business.

• In my experience, politics influences everything we do.

• Certainly do not want the misguided judgment of a local government to cause any discomfort to any of our clientele

• To clarify my response regarding Arizona: We are an Illinois state organization and would not be considering Arizona. We have changed our decision on going over the border to Wisconsin due to the political climate.

• It's sad that everything in our world is becoming politicized.

• Politics regarding minimum wage and taxation of events and venues affect us more in selection.

• You should have added a choice of "I don't do meetings in this state/locale" in the listings.

• We would also not hold a meeting in a hotel like those owned by the Sultan of Brunei.

• It's all about knowing your group and the meeting's objectives.

• For me, I really don't think laws should have a huge impact on the destination and area selected for events and meetings. As long as everyone is safe and secure, these policy laws shouldn't have an effect whatsoever on the selection. Now, of course, if those laws were to greatly affect those attending (i.e., hurt them), then the destination and area really would be an inappropriate selection for the event or meeting being planned and managed.

• Selection is a balance. Few places have a pure record of nondiscrimination. Decisions depend on how they affect our attendees.

• We have written off the whole Middle East as a destination and would think twice about inviting attendees from the Middle East. Blatant discrimination laws in the Southern states and cities will get a hard look, too.

• Could this survey be any MORE biased in how your questions are presented? I think not...

• Too many choices to go elsewhere. Why piss off my client?

• Such problems have little effect on the type of meetings that are predominate for me. I do training and education on a wide range of subjects that are pertinent to improving the bottom line and gaining market share. Hence, whatever "lifestyle" of an attendee is not an issue. What IS the issue is to solve/resolve the problem being addressed.

• Don't think of politics often, but you raise some valid questions. Thanks.

• We were prepared to move significant meetings out of Arizona after the recent controversy. I am extremely mindful of human rights issues in my international destination decisions. The foundation of our business is diversity and inclusion. There is no place for discriminatory practices in our society.

• If the law or policy will impact the safety or the ability of our attendees to move freely in the city or country, obviously that will impact our decision (i.e., if we had a lot of attendees who could pass for Hispanic, we could not sign for Arizona). Even if the legislation doesn't directly impact our attendees, we have to keep an eye on it because the policy might incite protests, etc.

• I have recently decided not to pursue a large conference in Dubai due to perceived policies regarding gays and citizens of Israel.

• Why would you ever spend money at a destination where all of your customers are not equally welcome?

• Any city/state that creates laws of discrimination toward any group I don't even go to on a vacation. I liked my trips to Lake Powell and renting a houseboat, but no more.

• Responses to most of these questions are group/event dependent. So, to make a blanket statement choosing to hold a meeting in Arizona or Arkansas or internationally is dependent upon the client, the event, the attendee audience, etc. If the issue directly affects the attendees or the values of the company, then political issues become more significant. But other clients/meetings may not care or be impacted.

• Those less apt to support considerations such as these when choosing a destination seem to claim, "It isn't our place to judge politics, as our members hold a variety of political positions." To me, it is a matter of selecting destinations in which none of my attendees have reason for discomfort or fear of reduced legal protections. An ultraconservative may not like the idea of meeting in San Fransisco, but they don't risk legal repercussions from meeting there. Gays in Arkansas now do. It isn't "trying to please everyone," it is assuring equal treatment of all attendees.

• Your questions are not specific enough to fairly respond... Some are immigration-related, one has to do with gay rights... nothing mentioned about marriage laws or other. Most of the laws are for the people in those states, and would not impact decisions to go to a state or city, most likely. It is a local issue that people who live in that state need to decide for themselves.

• There are consequences for those who discriminate.

• It is a matter of values. There is also a tug between not going/going and making a statement. What we can't do is ignore issues of discrimination.

• This survey is one-sided and has obviously been created by a liberal activist. You may think you are intelligent, but the intent of your questions is to advance your liberal agenda. You have only taken 50% of the information into account and therefore have ended up with false premises. Survey questions should never start off with conclusions.

• It is a topic that always comes up when we discuss location, and it is reviewed until the meeting takes place. We have canceled at the last minute because of events that suggested discrimination in practice at locations already selected. Countries' laws as well as practices are continually monitored.

• We need to keep a focus on our purpose. We are not a political organization.

• We run conventions, are not political organizations. Individual members can and should make their own decisions.

• Legal immigration is fine, but the illegals are what I am against. As far as sexual preference, as long as you do not involve me I do not care. They can do what they wish.

• As citizens, we must make our voices heard when there is injustice in politics, and the best way to do that is economically.

• The movements for the respect of all humans are not compartmentalized. Business income matters to leaders of communities around the world. Where you spend your money matters.

• Though this is the National Association of Black and White Men Together (nabwmt.org), there has been little impact over site selection based on these matters. We did have a demonstration over crude remarks made by hotel bell staff in Washington, D.C., in 1988.

• Since the '80s, I've managed issues that relate to all this: lettuce, grapes, abortion and gay rights, immigration issues and more. Groups that pay no attention to these issues are putting their participants AND vendors and exhibitors at risk. More, if these policies conflict w/ an organization's stated mission/bylaws/policies/D&I statements, then they are going against what they believe. Some groups -- MPI's board going to Dubai when Dubai was using slave labor, MPI's board to Beijing even w/ Beijing's human-rights violations -- are justified by the sponsoring organization by saying, "They'll talk with the powers that be while there." In MPI's case, they violated their own Principles of Professionalism and their highly touted signing of the U.N. Global Compact. They didn't care. Most companies don't. OR they use the "if we all boycott we're hurting the very workers we want to help" argument. I've heard 'em all! And clients have canceled meetings including in Arizona. THANK you for asking this. I fear the responses.

• Ill-conceived survey, re international travel. Far more relevant would be threat factors, perceived and real. For example Singapore vs. Bahamas. Your survey seems to tilted only on civil rights issues, not exactly a topic easily understood. For example, are we talking about how immigrant workers are treated in Dubai, or if Paris is any safer than London? The answer, if you skew the survey simply to race/civil rights, is that the majority of planners will have second thoughts about sending a Democrats-heavy group to Scottsdale. A small group of bankers, on the other hand, would probably look at the golf options first, unless the topic is recent and very much perceived as a wrong or political incorrect choice.

• Unfortunately, legislators' and politicians' actions end up hurting the very fabric of a destination or city -- the workers and their families. If a group pulls out of a city, many people suffer. It's much more than the "convention center" or the "DMO"...It impacts local jobs, workers and their families. And, in some instances, it takes years for a destination/state to rebound and recover lost business and lost jobs. YOU can lead the discussion on this...A sea change needs to occur throughout our industry to avoid knee-jerk reactions that end up hurting the very people the planners (and their attendees) care about. It's been a hidden issue that needs to surface.

• Personally I absolutely would not want to spend money in a location whose laws discriminate against any minority group. Why should my money help support this? Professionally, although these laws are loathsome, I may not have a choice to have a meeting in a one of these locations. It would also depend on the demographics of the attendee base.

• Extremely important and we should all be more diligent about letting our venues know how important it is. The only reason I would not cancel would be costly penalties.

• I am astonished by this poll. You are asking if we will discriminate against people for their personal, religious and political opinions. What's next? Prison for those who don't fall in line with your political correctness? This is one scary poll!

• This survey is inappropriately weighted toward a liberal bias. Shame on you!

• Our attendees would drive our actions. If a majority of our attendees viewed one way or another and indicated they would not attend if... we would have to consider as it would affect our numbers (attrition).

• In 2010, we held our national conference in Phoenix. The contract had been signed several years prior, and we did not cancel the event due to Arizona's passage of SB1070. We had a handful of people who chose not to come because of SB1070. We did experience a much lower attendance, so perhaps others did not verbalize or communicate their concerns with us, but chose not to come.

• If a destination passed a law that specifically impacted my attendees in a way germane to the subject matter of our conference, that could either present a challenge or it could present an opportunity to fuel engagement on the topic.

• The clients I work with have varying sensitivity to this issue. One took Arizona off the list when SB1070 passed, and others had no problem with it.

• Cancellation might depend upon the contract terms and potential for loss of deposits or required payments.

• More so than destinations, the cultural and social views and political contributions of individual venues and hotel chains would definitely affect my willingness to patronize their properties.