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The Group Travel Leader Going on Faith Select Traveler

Hospitality Attorney to Speak at 
SMM Conference

The old nursery rhyme “Jack be nimble, Jack be quick,” applies even to the modern meetings business, according to industry leader Jonathan Howe.

“One of the major issues we face today is that this industry isn’t static. What worked yesterday may not work today. We have to be on top of developments taking place,” said Howe, hospitality attorney. “You’ve got to be nimble and be able to jump over that candlestick” by carefully planning and successfully executing your meeting agenda, he added.

Howe, a founding partner in the Chicago law firm Howe & Hutton, will be one of the seminar speakers at the fifth annual Small Market Meetings Conference (SMMC), scheduled for September 28-30 in Mesa, Arizona.

Howe is recognized as a leader in the hospitality and meetings, travel, incentive, hotel and trade show industries. He’s been honored by the Academy of Hospitality Industry Attorneys as the Hospitality Industry Attorney of the Year.

“I’ve been very fortunate to have watched this industry mature and go through many changes,” he said. “Every day we’re faced with new challenges. Keeping on top of it is part of the fun and the frustration.”

Howe cites the airlines as one industry always grappling with change with their consolidations and rule changes affecting travelers, meeting attendees and suppliers. Second- and third-tier cities must always be mindful of the number of flights available into and out of their cities. That may factor into which cities planners select for their meetings.

“A lot of people don’t realize what clout small meetings have,” said Howe. “You may be small but you may be powerful to the people you bring to the venue. Therefore, in your negotiations, use the demographics for your group and what the spin is going to be and how you will make it work best for you to get the deal you’re entitled to get.”

Howe, who earned his bachelor’s degree from Northwestern University and his law degree from Duke University, says timing is important in meeting planning. He believes cities shift periodically from being buyers’ markets to sellers’ markets, depending on the particular market.

“Here in Chicago, if you want to book a meeting in October, forget about it [it’s very busy]. But if you look at the first week in January, we’ll open our arms wide to you. You need to understand activities going on in a particular location. Do your homework.”

Another word of advice: When approaching deals, everyone must remember they’re in the hospitality industry, not the hostility industry. People live and die by their reputations.

Howe said there are benefits smaller markets provide that larger markets can’t (lower costs, free parking, less congestion). Those factors set some cities apart. He compared SMMC site Mesa with nearby Phoenix.

“They’re entirely different markets, each with their own strengths. What are you trying to achieve with your meeting?” said Howe. “Phoenix may be good for one type, Mesa best for another. The bottom line: We like to have that interchange with another human being.”


Register Today for the Small Market Meetings Conference

Interested in hearing more from Jonathan Howe? Find him and other speakers, as well as hundreds of meeting destination ideas, at the 2014 Small Market Meetings Conference, September 28-30 in Mesa, Arizona.

Registration is now open for the conference — hurry now to reserve your spot. You can register online at or by calling 800-628-0993.

Dan Dickson

Dan has been a communicator all his professional life, first as an award-winning radio and TV news reporter for two decades and then as a communications director for several non-profits for another decade. He has contributed to The Group Travel Leader Inc. publications since 2007.