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Demographics In Flux

Posted on December 05, 2007

By Joan Eisenstodt

As we continue to look at back as 2007 comes to an end and forward to 2008, anyone who has paid even a modicum of attention realizes that the demographics of virtually all countries is changing.  In years past, demographics impacted meetings little; those who attended meetings tended to be fairly homogeneous.  If one looks at photos from meetings of years past, one sees, mainly, white men attending, many with female spouses.  Not so today.

The workforce has dramatically changed and is more representative of different populations: women, people of color, people born in countries other than where they live currently, people who speak different languages from each other, people with different abilities, people with partners not spouses, people with and without children, people with different religions, and so many more differences, which often turn into similarities. 

Why have we not seen a shift in how we do business? Why are facilities that house meetings, marketing for those facilities and for meetings, and meetings themselves, not reflective of these demographic shifts?  Is no one looking closely at the world and how it has changed?

Perhaps it is fear.  Currently, the most contentious issue in the United States, and I dare say, around the world, is immigration.  As our world changes, it is far easier than ever before for people to 'country-hop' - changing where they live because of war, civil strife, or economic issues.

Our industry's workforce is fueled heavily by an immigrant workforce.  For example, in Dubai, a country that is considered by some to be the epitome the new face of tourism, laborers are imported to do the work on the opulent facilities being built.  In the United States, until the aftermath of 11 September 2001 took hold, the people who worked in the country's resorts often came from outside the US.  Now, Visa regulations, have made it far more difficult for these resorts to hire those who will work the concessions or clean the rooms.  Speculation around the US is that if the US government decides to deport anyone who does not have appropriate status, our broad hospitality and tourism industry will be close to shutting down because there are not enough others to fill the jobs that will be left.

The questions with which I leave you today: In what ways have you considered the changing world population and its impact on how your company or organization does business?  What are your considerations when selecting destinations and facilities? when selecting speakers? How do you view the staff makeup of a destination or facility and its reflection of those who will attend your meeting?  Do marketing pieces - printed or electronic - your organization produces reflect the audience you hope to attract to your facility? your meetings?  Who, among those with whom you work, is savvy about different religious and cultural practices? food and beverage needs? that will accommodate those who stay in your facilities or attend your meetings?

What questions will you add to this discussion?

Suggested reading:  "Hospitality 2010" by Marvin Cetron et al available at amazon.com


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