A Question of Ethics
I consider myself to be a very ethical person. I know that all industries have opportunities for temptation and the hospitality industry is no exception. Lately, there seems to be a lot of online discussions on ethics as they pertain to issues like FAM trips (destination familiarization trips) site inspections and the like. Is it ethical to ask to extend your site inspection to include a weekend for personal recreation? Is it ethical to take family members along on a FAM trip? Is it ethical to even attend the destination FAM if you do not have current or foresee having future business for the destination? I have heard both sides of the argument. As a whole, our industry seems to be coming together more in the last few years. There has been a code of ethics published by the Convention Industry Council (CIC) www.conventionindustry.org/CMP/Ethics.aspx, but these standards only pertain to those members of the industry who hold the CMP (Certified Meeting Professional) designation which the CIC oversees.
In my 15+ years in this industry as both a supplier and a planner, I have seen firsthand the types of unethical behavior that takes place. Here are just two examples:
As a hotelier, local suppliers like DMC’s and off site venues reach out to the future, definite clients to see if they can secure some of their business during the meeting or incentive trip. This is usually done by way of introductions from solid relationships with the sales managers or convention service managers. The contact list for future groups is confidential hotel information and yet I know that in some destinations, money is paid for this information. I was offered several hundred dollars by one such vendor for the hotel list, which I turned down.
As an independent planner always looking to expand my client base, I was approached by a hotel sales person offering to introduce me to key, potential clients if I split my commissions on future bookings with them, to be paid in cash without the hotel’s knowledge. Again, I turned this down. I did receive referrals to new accounts from some hotel sales people but it was an open introduction with no cash exchange. It was done based on a solid relationship between two professionals who both had the best interest of the client in mind.
The meetings / hospitality industry is no different from others in that it is a very small, very incestuous industry. It can almost be guaranteed that you will cross paths with a former co-worker or boss at some point in time if you stay in the business long enough. When presented with a situation that your gut tells you is just not right, do a gut check and ask yourself if your mother would approve of the behavior. That should give you your answer. I urge you to make the right choices and help us all work together to elevate the ethical standards of our industry.