Enough of the business event convention bashing say the leaders for the U.S. Travel Association. They are fighting back against a severe tourism tumble in a new advertising campaign launched Wednesday to fight negative publicity brought about by the recession and made worse by bad-mouthing from a handful of members of Congress and President Obama.
While those remarks were aimed at trips taken by companies that have accepted federal bailout dollars, tourism leaders say the fallout is pervasive and has spread throughout the corporate world. “A climate of fear is killing (destination) communities, and it has to stop,” says Roger Dow, president of the U.S. Travel Association.
The result has been millions of dollars in meetings and events are being cut back, canceled or merely being left in the planning stages.
Las Vegas is a major victim, expecting to lose $20 million in trips from Fortune 500 clients alone.
A recent survey by Meetings and Conventions Magazine showed that more than 20 percent of companies that have not received bailout money have canceled their events, with fear of bad publicity reportedly a big factor. “What has occurred is we have a witch hunt mentality, and this has a huge cost, not just in dollars, but for the people who work in the industry,” says Dow.
“Stop bad-mouthing Las Vegas and stop telling businesses and major companies to stay away from Las Vegas. You are hurting our economy, you’re forcing major layoffs of employees in the hotel industry,” says Rep. Shelley Berkley, D-Nev.
The new advertising campaign by the U.S. Travel Association is aimed at toning down the rhetoric and to detail punitive bills. One such bill proposed last week by Sen. John Kerry, D-Mass, would prevent bailed out banks from “hosting, sponsoring, or paying for conferences, holiday parties, and other entertainment events.”