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Iowa Meetings Association makes a name for itself


The Iowa Convention and Visitors Bureau Association is no more. A new group has taken its place, the Iowa Meetings Association. The old organization was made up solely of convention and visitors bureaus.

“We wanted to broaden our membership base,” said Tiffany Menke, president of the IMA. “Now any Iowa entity interested in improving the meeting and convention market can join. It creates a larger pool for networking and marketing Iowa as a whole.”

Menke, who’s also vice president of marketing and tourism for the Newton Chamber/Alliance, was a member of the Iowa Convention and Visitors Bureau Association when she began brainstorming about the organization’s future.

“Something needed to change,” she said. “I just wanted to see the meetings market grow.”

Then the idea came to her: the group could make its message louder by adding more voices. She created a proposal for a group that would include convention and visitors bureaus, events venues, hotels, restaurants, chambers of commerce and counties.

“When you have that large a group of people giving out a constant message, it makes the message stronger,” she said.

Not only would a larger association disseminate the promotion of Iowa more effectively, it would also allow a pooling of information and resources. One venue might get a lead on an event too large for it to accommodate. With the new connections created by the IMA, referring the event’s organizers to a more suitable in-state location would be simple, keeping the event, and its tourism dollars, in Iowa. When she proposed the new group to the old group’s president, he thought it was a great idea and presented it to the association’s members. They approved.

The IMA has been going through a period of transition, with an interim board in place until December. The first meeting for all members will be held Oct. 20 at the Des Moines Marriott, 700 Grand Ave. During the meeting, a new slate of potential officers will be presented to the general membership. Menke hopes the new board will reflect the diverse groups making up the IMA. The group has drafted bylaws and a mission statement. It is still working on a plan of action.

People can join the IMA as members for $250, and if someone from an organization is a member, co-workers can join as associate members for $100. Often sales directors for convention and visitors bureaus join as members, and the bureaus’ directors will join as associate members.

“It’s the sales directors’ job to work on getting meetings and conventions into their communities,” Menke said. “They’re the ones who really need to keep informed on what’s going on.”

Although associate members cannot vote, they can attend meetings, volunteer on committees, get newsletters, go to events and get leads on potential clients.

Menke says the IMA is forming at a time when there are more opportunities than ever before for tourism in Iowa.

“Vision Iowa has done a lot for the state by providing attractions, recreation activities and meeting and convention facilities,” she said. “As long as we’re able to do a good job of promoting Iowa and bringing things into the state, we won’t have to worry about saturation.”


From fiscal year 2001 to fiscal 2003, the state of Iowa’s tourism budget has dropped 42.6 percent. That’s almost as much as the cuts made during the same period by Missouri, Wisconsin, Minnesota and Nebraska combined, according to the Travel Industry Association of America. Those states averaged a much lower budget drop of 10.8 percent each. Tourism is a $4.3 billion industry in Iowa, employing 61,700 people, according to the Iowa Meetings Association. That’s down approximately 950 workers from 2000. The association hopes it can bring in needed tourism dollars and preserve tourism jobs by pooling the membership dues and the efforts of convention and visitors bureaus, hotels, restaurants, chambers of commerce and counties to target travelers both in and out of state. Approximately 42 percent of Iowa’s travelers are Iowans, and IMA president Tiffany Menke says out-of-state travelers are an underutilized source of potential revenue.

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