Building bridges

Building bridges

CMW speaks to David Peckinpaugh, president of Maritz Travel Company

Maritz Travel Company president David Peckinpaugh has been making headlines in recent months as co-chair of the US Travel Association’s (USTA) Meetings Means Business Coalition, actively lobbying in America’s corridors of power for greater industry recognition.

As head of one of the largest meeting and incentive travel management companies in the world, Peckinpaugh leads a company that hopes to transform industry and people through business events. In the past year Maritz Travel managed, sourced or contracted more than six million rooms, booked more than 11,500 meetings and events, and in serving nearly three million travellers, generated more than $2bn industry-related impact.

Prior to taking his seat at Maritz Travel in mid-2011, Peckinpaugh worked as head of business development at HelmsBriscoe, president and CEO of the San Diego Convention & Visitors Bureau, and chief marketing officer for Conferon Global Services (now Experient, a Maritz Travel Company).

A board and executive committee member of the USTA, trustee of the PCMA Education Foundation and advisory board member for Tourism Vancouver, the St Louis CVC, Cornell University Center for Hospitality Research and the St  Louis University Hospitality Program, Peckinpaugh clearly has his hands full. Here, CMW delves a little deeper into what drives his efforts in the international meetings industry:

How did you get into the business events industry?

I truly fell into the business. I decided to move back to Colorado in 1984 after spending several years in a family business in Ohio. I contacted the Alumni office of Colorado College and a friend there suggested I contact the Broadmoor Hotel. I interviewed with Chuck Magill (who is still a great friend) and he took a flier on me. I started as a sales manager at the Broadmoor and have never looked back.

How have you seen the meetings industry evolve in that time?

The industry has evolved significantly over more than 30 years. Technology alone has transformed our business. In 1984, the Broadmoor only accepted the Broadmoor credit card, had manual function books and metal room keys. At hotels today you can check in via your smart phone, conduct a Skype business call with attendees around the globe and order room service online. Venues have evolved as well, with space design being far more critical now along with technology capabilities. The list goes on and on, but the one thing that has not changed is the fact that the business is still based on relationships. That is what attracted me to the industry and what still gets me up in the morning. We have great people focused on doing great work together to advance issues around the globe, and that is done in face-to-face environments where relationships still rule the day.

How does the variety of professional roles you’ve held enrich what you are able to offer the industry?

I have certainly had an interesting career spanning hotels and resorts, a seminar company, a CVB and several third parties. The key benefits this background provides is an expanse of experiences and a well-rounded perspective when addressing industry issues. Hopefully, I can see issues from many angles and avoid the trap of singular visions as we search for solutions. I greatly admire individuals that have significant tenure at one organisation but I have enjoyed the variety of challenges, cultures and people that my career has afforded.

What can we expect to see at Maritz in the next year, and what is the company’s current focus?

We have a number of key initiatives underway at Maritz Travel and Experient. Experience design has been a focus for the past several years and the capabilities that we have built internally are helping to transform our clients’ businesses and their people. We see that work expanding thanks to our internal teams, Jim Gilmore and our own Maritz Institute.

Our global expansion will also continue with the continued growth of our Maritz Global Meeting Network. We launched the network last year and our global general managers are doing a fantastic job of maximising our network partners as we work with our clients to solve their global needs. Finally, our efforts on our internal cultural initiative of unleashing human potential are fully underway as we focus on the dual bottom line: financial and people. We approach that in a multi-stakeholder model with an emphasis on our clients, our people, our supplier partners and our communities.

In which geographic areas is the brand strongest and in which areas would you like an increased presence?

We are obviously extremely strong in the US and across all of North America as well as the European Union. The launch of our Maritz Global Meetings Network is strengthening our brand in many other regions of the world and we see great growth opportunities in South America and Asia Pacific, to name just a few. There are also some intriguing non-organic growth opportunities globally that we are pursuing which would also add to the strength of our global brand.

How is the Meetings Mean Business Coalition progressing in North America?

First of all, I do believe that our industry has recovered the vast majority of the business that was lost in 2009-2010 and is in fact stronger than ever. That can be said across the board from hotels and resorts to destinations, and companies like Maritz.

Over the past two years the industry has come together with one voice, and that voice is the Meetings Mean Business Coalition (MMBC). This industry-wide coalition has raised more than US$1m this year alone to design and execute a communications strategy to proactively defend the economic power and value of face-to-face meetings. While we still have a lot of work to do, we have launched a free app, built an industry tool kit and expanded our support network for our industry on capital hill, to name just a few. We need everyone to get involved and it has been great to see the North American Meetings Industry Day evolve into the Global Meetings Industry Day in 2016.

In addition, we expect to see sister organisations to MMBC formed in countries like Mexico, Australia and many more.

Should we be doing more to educate the business events executives of the future, as a means of winning wider approval and involvement?

Our challenge of education is daunting and can’t be limited to just business events executives. We have to include all meeting professionals, local/regional/national politicians, corporate and association leaders and emerging students in this education. The MMBC is a great vehicle to accomplish that and we will succeed thanks to the aligned efforts of our MMBC industry partners.

Conference & Meetings World is published for the international conference and meetings industry. It tackles the issues facing organisers of international events. The editorial is independent, fresh and news driven, with a global reach.