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09/22/09
Meeting Professionals, Elite Hotels Unite at the Fall 2009 Elite Meetings Alliance (EMA)
As the Travel Industry Comes Back, Hospitality Execs Rally Support, Book Meetings and Demonstrate the Value of Sustainable Business, Conducted in Real Time
SANTA BARBARA, CA – September 22, 2009 – The Fall 2009 Elite Meetings Alliance, September 13-15, demonstrated that a new era is at hand for the travel industry—both in the way industry leaders come together and exchange ideas to advance the interests of the industry, and the way meetings business gets done.

Held at the Boca Beach Club at the Boca Raton Resort & Club in Florida, the event brought together nearly 200 of the industry's top planning professionals and representatives from Elite Certified hotels in the U.S., Canada, the Caribbean, and Mexico. The Spring 2010 Elite Meetings Alliance will be held May 16-18 at the Terranea Resort in Rancho Palos Verdes, California. An Offshore Elite Meetings Alliance has recently been added to the mix. It will take place at The Royal Hawaiian January 24-26, 2010, and will feature properties primarily from Hawaii and other offshore locations.

Breaking Industry News First
The Elite Meeting Alliance, a semiannual event held by Elite Meetings International (EMI), is recognized for its one-on-one business meetings, educational seminars, high-quality speakers and entertainers, and social gatherings that foster new relationships and build business.

Headlining the Fall 2009 event was Geoff Freeman, Senior Vice President of the U.S. Travel Association, who addressed attendees just hours before the national release of a study conducted by Oxford Economics that reported on the value of business travel for the Return On Investment (ROI) of corporations. (meetingsmeanbusiness.com/value-meetings.)

“We were thrilled to have Geoff Freeman speak at the EMA and preview the results of the Oxford study,” said Kelly Foy, EMI’s Chief Executive Officer.

Among other insights, Freeman commented that the industry is successfully confronting unprecedented challenges and bracing for more—even as it demonstrates, for policymakers and the general public, that the ROI of travel and meetings is greater than ever.

Foy concluded, “We have clearly entered a new era for the travel industry—in which personal advocacy, uniting as an industry to meet common goals, and utilizing the latest in technology and communications—will be the keys to success. EMI and our partners are grateful to be at the cutting edge in each of these areas, as we continue to bring hotel and meeting professionals together to do business in new and unprecedented ways.”

Doing Business . . . Efficiently, Sustainably, and in Real Time
As at past Elite Meeting Alliance events, the bulk of the three-day conference was dedicated to one-on-one meetings between the attending hoteliers and corporate, association, and incentive meeting professionals.

But this fall’s one-on-one sessions had a new twist: the appointments were set up and business was conducted using proprietary technologies from EMI— including its FaceTimeTM
Michael Garrow, Vice President of Sales & Marketing from Kingsmill Resort, said, “The entire EMA event, and all of Elite’s technology innovations, were eye-opening.” He concluded, “Over the course of three days we had 15 dedicated one-on-one appointments and met the majority of the attending planners during networking events. I came away with several RFPs totaling over 1,000 room nights, 750 of which are very likely to contract. There’s no question in my mind that there’s no better, easier or more efficient way to book meetings business.”

Senior Meeting Planner Jennifer Leto of Hess Corporation said, "We have always known that EMI brings the highest quality luxury hotels to the table and makes it possible to connect with them easily. What is now clear is that EMI continues to innovate technologies that are changing the way hotels and meeting professionals do their business, and will continue to do so into the future.”

On the eve of the conference, EMI announced that it had doubled the size of its Advisory Board; quadrupled its unique visitors per month to nearly 20,000 at www.EliteMeetings.com; cemented a technology partnership with Starwood Hotels & Resorts Worldwide, Inc. (NYSE:HOT), and worked to provide other corporate partners with access to planner-focused, hotel profile information and its Request For Proposal (RFP) functionality.

The company also recently unveiled its proprietary FaceTimeTM appointment scheduling system, which is being used next at the Hosted Buyer Program at the Motivation Show (IT&ME) in Chicago, September 29-October 1.

The company expects to make additional new product announcements in the coming weeks.

Walking Away with Business – and Even Having Some Fun
During the event attendees commented on the quality of both planners and hoteliers, and the conduciveness of the Elite Meetings Alliance environment to conducting business.

Gus Vonderheide, Vice President of Sales, Group for Hyatt Hotels & Resorts said “[It was] extremely impressive how prepared the planners at the EMA are to conduct business.”

Erika Davis, Senior Meeting & Event Coordinator, of Southeast Toyota, also expressed her approval, saying, “It is refreshing to experience a conference that has mastered the balance between function and fun. Your formula is inspiring. In an amazingly short time, I have made connections that I know will lead to promising, long-term business and professional development relationships.”

Respondents to an audience survey taken at the conclusion of the EMA—planners and hoteliers alike—confirmed positive impressions of the company’s innovations and the success of the EMA at achieving its goals.

According to the survey, 100% of hotels in attendance believed they would book meetings business from the planners they met with at the EMA. 97% of planners surveyed believe they would book meetings at those hotels. And in another unanimous vote, 100% of respondents said they got at least the ROI they expected from the event, or more.

An informal survey taken by EMA staffers reported similar unanimity surrounding the social, networking and entertainment components of the events, which were executed flawlessly by the Boca Beach Club at the Boca Raton Resort & Club.

“We work hard and we play hard,” concluded Foy.

“It’s just in our corporate DNA.”

About Elite Meetings International
Based in Santa Barbara, Elite Meetings International (EMI) provides integrated solutions to enhance the performance of meeting and hospitality professionals. EMI supports this community through a combination of innovative technology, direct sales support, customized marketing programs and face-to-face business-building events. Additionally, the company’s Web site serves as a commission-free RFP-generating tool and a comprehensive vehicle for sourcing luxury, upper-upscale and upscale properties. For additional information, please visit www.EliteMeetings.com or call 805-730-1000.