Government Agencies Shun Las Vegas

With agencies like the FBI moving conferences out of destinations like Las Vegas, the U.S. Travel Association recent release of a comprehensive study of the ROI of business travel couldn’t come at a better time.

It’s not just corporate meeting planners that are afraid to hold events in beach, resort or entertainment destinations. Now government agencies are saying that both formal and informal policies have them avoiding destinations like Las Vegas and Orlando, FL., to avoid any criticism that their business meetings are really junkets.

“What’s going on is a lot of fear in the marketplace,” says Geoff Freeman, senior vice president of public affairs of the U.S. Travel Association (USTA). “That started in the corporate world and has shifted to government agencies. Folks from different agencies are admitting this is going on.”

It has gotten so bad, Freeman adds, that planners arranging meeting for government agencies “are willing to spend more money—taxpayer money—to avoid the perception of wastefulness.” Among those who agree is Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-NV), whose state relies upon Las Vegas as a major economic engine.

Noting that the director of the FBI recently ordered an agency conference relocated away from Las Vegas because it is a “vacation and leisure destination” as well as “an unmatched location for conducting business in terms of cost and availability of convention and related space,” Sen. Reid recently wrote to Rahm Emanuel, President Barack Obama’s chief of staff, asking for his “assistance to reverse the current informal federal policy which prohibits and/or discourages government meetings and conferences in Las Vegas and other cities on the basis that they are too leisure oriented to be awarded such business.”

Last week came the reply from White House Chief of Staff Rahm Emanuel: Viva Las Vegas! 

The federal government has no business forbidding government meetings and conferences from taking place in communities “known for attracting vacationers,” Emanuel wrote. “For me, the test of government travel is what will be accomplished by that travel and whether the cost to the government is reasonable as opposed to other options.”

No word on how the “what happens/stays” formulation might be affected by the federal Freedom of Information Act.

“What’s really going on here is most people don’t think other people’s meetings are necessary,” says Freeman. “We must fight that as an industry.”

So far, he adds, the meetings, incentive, conventions and events (MICE) industry has failed to present the business case or defend the value of meetings and conventions. To that end, on July 28, the USTA will unveil a comprehensive study on the ROI of business travel—the quantifiable impact of business travel on business bottom lines.

But that’s only one step, Freeman warns. The MICE industry must continue along that path by continually making this point to the government, to the media, to business executives and to the general public if the message is to get through.

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2 Comments

Filed under entertainment, food, Las Vegas, news, travel, Uncategorized

2 responses to “Government Agencies Shun Las Vegas

  1. Miles Event Managment

    Now is the time that we in the meetings and event industry must stand up and show that meetings do bring value to organizations. They’re not simply just for entertainment but rather the creation of ideas and concepts. When we bring people together we can do infinitely more than when we’re miles apart. During these financially challenging times we should be looking for ways to come together, collaborate and innovate to find a path back to growth and progress.

  2. Kevin

    The issue is cost instead of destination. When I travel, I am perfectly content w/ a Motel 6 or Super 8. If I am conducting business, I only spend my sleep time at a hotel. As long as the room has a fridge, microwave, & basic cable TV, it satisfies my needs. Wi-Fi or Ethernet internet access, is just a bonus.
    Cap the room rate to $50/day. Allow per diem of $7 for breakfast, $10 for lunch, & $15 for dinner, as well as $30/day for a rental car (a $20/day Corolla will get you where you want to go, instead of an $80/day Cadillac. Also, $100 could be provided for entertainment (shows, fun parks, etc). This may include an extra day after the conference for entertainment.
    When attending meetings or conventions, your room is just for sleep. If your room includes a bed, bathroom, & climate control, how much more is needed??
    A $30-50 room provides adequate comfort.
    For govt employees, staying in a $200+/day room & getting a rental car for $80+/day, EXHIBITS MUCH FRAUD, WASTE & ABUSE.
    During previous travels (like MOST non-govt employees), I have found the “cheapest lodging” avail. Considering the room was ONLY for sleeping, I have been content w/ motels that are less than $20/day. During my previous travel, I could have easily provided meals, for 3 people, regarding the per diem ($7 for breakfast, $10 for lunch, & $15 for dinner).
    It definitely appears that govt employees can be provided a satisfactory travel package regardless of where they go. As a disabled vet, even if I could afford better rooms ($200+/day) or a better rental vehicle ($80+/day), I would STILL only use the cheapest option (the govt NEEDS to adopt the same philosophy).
    While on active duty, I saw MANY instances that CPO’s & Officers were allowed to charge (on their govt issued AmEx cards), $200+/day hotel rooms. They were also allowed to charge $50+ meals to their govt issued CC. ALL charges were covered by the govt (even charges that were made in their “home port”. Am I the ONLY PERSON who sees MAJOR FRAUD, WASTE & ABUSE in this system??

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