Tag Archives: U.S. Travel Association

Welcome to Sin City, Mr. President!

With an unprecedented 30-mile radius air traffic prohibition in place (usually it’s half that) during his trip to Las Vegas, costing commercial air tour travel operators thousands of dollars of lost revenue, President Barack Obama remains undaunted, planning to land his Air Force One gas guzzling hog later tonight, marking his second presidential visit to Sin City– you know, the little hideaway berg that encourages corporations to blow their government bailout funds or simply have students waste their college savings on gambling forays. 

Despite having such a notorious moniker, Las Vegas tourism officials have weathered the multiple gaffes and predict a million more visitors in 2010.  Thank you, Mr. President. 

He’ll probably need to bring a strong suit of armor and sharp swords when he speaks Friday for select invitees at the Las Vegas Convention and Visitors Authority, where his prior barbs were specifically aimed.

His olive branch offering, if you will, will be his quest to seek congressional approval of the Travel Promotions Act- an overseas $4 billion promotion program that could bring more moneyed foreign tourists to Las Vegas.   Morevover, the bill promises it could bring 40,000 new American jobs and $320 million in new federal tax revenue, according to the U.S. Travel Association. 

If that doesn’t stick when the Prez throws it against the wall, his backup plan (or an add-on, depending on crowd rancor) could be to announce the Department of Transportation’s $30 million project for a new Sahara Avenue – one of the most traveled byways in Las Vegas – bus project as part of the multibillion stimulus package. 

But outspoken ex-mob lawyer turned Las Vegas Mayor Oscar Goodman will not being rolling the red carpet out.   Goodman remains upset at President Obama. Goodman said he needs to be true to his conscience and, therefore, won’t accept invitations to greet the president of attend any town hall meeting unless he personally gets “some kind of retraction.”  

If you like to be part of this surely politically entertaining event, you can line up for tickets now at Green Valley High School in Henderson for Friday’s 10 a.m. town hall meeting. 

Mr. President, please be sure to enjoy yourself when you’re in the home of sin.  It’s a devilishly fun town.

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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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Nevada Travel & Tourism Sales Blitz This Week

Some may still not feel promoting Nevada travel and tourism benefits is a good idea in our stagnating economy, especially following President Obama’s February comments about frivolous travel in Las Vegas by corporations that accepted federal bailout money.  

But don’t tell that to Las Vegas Mayor Oscar Goodman or casino mogul Steve Wynn.  Both want to bend the ear – and more – of President Obama when he vists Las Vegas on May 26 and headlines a fundraiser for Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid, D-Nev.  (Las Vegas Backstage Access April 1 article.) 

Wynn wants Obama to specifically address Nevada tourism.  “The people that voted in the Democratic Party, for the main part, work in the tourism and travel industry as cooks and waiters and housekeeping,” Wynn said. “They are being hit very hard not only by the recession but by federal policy that has discouraged travel.” 

Providing added fuel to boost Nevada’s flailing tourism industry, six Nevada Commission on Tourism (NCOT) staffers have taken to the road early today for a western sales “blitz” during National Travel and Tourism Week to promote special travel deals designed to boost Nevada visitor numbers, according to NCOT chairperson and Nevada Lt. Gov. Brian K. Krolicki. 

The sales team will visit travel agents, tour operators, AAA offices and other influential tourism industry representatives in Los Angeles, Phoenix, Sacramento, Salt Lake City, San Diego, San Francisco, San Jose and Seattle. Several tourism industry partners from around the state will accompany the staff members from NCOT’s Sales and Industry Partners department. 

“There’s no better time for fun in Nevada than now, because of the special travel deals at hotels, golf courses, shops, spas and entertainment venues throughout the state. It’s a productive way for NCOT to observe this year’s National Travel and Tourism Week and a great way to attract more visitors in this current economy,” says Krolicki.   

The team will visit AAA offices that advise consumers about travel destinations, tour operators that bring groups of customers to Nevada and receptive operators who help with arrangements in the state. At each stop they will distribute USB flash drives that contain the new NCOT Industry Partners Newsletter, Nevada Magazine’s Events and Shows publication, a listing called What’s New in Nevada and an introduction to the new Web site, NV.Mobi, which makes travel information accessible by mobile phones and devices, a consumer newsletter and special spring travel packages. They also will hand out the Visitor Guide and fliers with information about special events and attractions. 

The team will also visit six different tribes to exchange ideas and generate interest in attending American Indian events in Nevada throughout the year and meet with a Japanese credit card company in Los Angeles to promote special Nevada travel deals for the company’s cardholders. 

Nevada’s attractions and deals with tour operators and motorcoach companies will be promoted in Salt Lake City, a strong market for travel to Elko County and other points in eastern and southern Nevada including Las Vegas. 

“Tourism is a highly competitive industry, and we need to be aggressive and never let up in our sales and marketing efforts,” Krolicki said. “Nevada is a destination that allows consumers to maximize the value of their dollars, and we must do all we can to boost awareness, attract more business and maintain our place as a leading destination.” 

The sales blitz is NCOT’s second since December 2008, when economic challenges were escalating and the commission stepped up its already vigorous sales efforts. 

National Travel and Tourism Week on May 9-17 is an annual observance by the U.S. Travel Association in Washington, D.C., that focuses on the industry’s contribution to the U.S. economy, which is worth more than $700 billion.

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Tourism Leaders Want Stop to Las Vegas Business Travel Bad-Mouthing

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.”

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