Submit Press release  Ě eTN Team ·  Advertising  ·  eTN Awards  - Worldtourism Events    

Corporate Travel

Hotel CEOs bite back at anti-travel talk  Mar 04, 2009

NEW YORK - Political outrage over the use of public money on corporate perks is scaring many companies away from legitimate travel spending and could -- if unchecked -- cost thousands of jobs in the U.S. hospitality industry, according to hotel, casino and airline leaders.

Attempts to paint all travel to convention centers like Las Vegas as boondoggles will hurt, not help, the economy and delay recovery, travel chiefs told the Reuters Travel and Leisure Summit in New York this week.

"It's a real disservice to the U.S. travel industry and the global travel industry," Dara Khosrowshahi, chief executive of Expedia Inc., the U.S. No. 1 online travel agent, told the summit on Tuesday.

"There has been this demonization of corporate travel and group travel which really threatens to fundamentally hurt the infrastructure of travel. We hope that the rhetoric lessens because it is absolutely hurting the business."

Dozens of struggling U.S. companies, from financial titans American International Group Inc. and Citigroup Inc. to automaker General Motors Corp (GM.N), have received government loans or other support in the past few months.

Politicians, sensing a backlash against corporate greed and folly, have jumped at the chance to police the spending of these companies, after public funds ensured their survival.

"You can't take a trip to Las Vegas or down to the Super Bowl on the taxpayers' dime," President Barack Obama famously said in February.

High-profile companies are now wary of attracting attention with flashy trips. Wells Fargo & Co, which received $25 billion from the government bailout program, had a plan to send 40 insurance employees to a Las Vegas conference for several days but decided against it to avoid a public outcry.

The de facto boycott of Las Vegas and other convention centers is making a bad situation worse, industry leaders say.

On Wednesday, the U.S. Travel Association launched its "Meetings Mean Business" campaign (, an attempt by the industry's trade group to push back against the rhetoric and prevent companies from canceling thousands of events.

"The pendulum has swung too far," said Roger Dow, president of the U.S. Travel Association on Wednesday. "The climate of fear is causing a historic pullback of business meetings and events, with a devastating impact on small businesses, American workers and communities."

Meetings, conventions and other events make up nearly 15 percent of all U.S. travel, according to the campaign, creating $101 billion in spending, 1 million jobs and nearly $16 billion in federal, state and local tax.

"To take this completely negative view of every bit of travel to Las Vegas right now as a boondoggle is just a silly position to take," Stephen Holmes, chief executive of hotel and timeshare company Wyndham Worldwide Corp. told the Reuters summit on Tuesday. "It's doing a lot of damage to an industry like ours that is a great provider of jobs and vibrancy to the economy."

Las Vegas casino mogul Sheldon Adelson ridiculed the new atmosphere of fear of having fun at corporate-sponsored events.

"What is the implication here? That the government, on taxpayers money, will only allow people to go to places where they cannot enjoy themselves, where they have got to hate it?" Adelson, chief executive of casino operator Las Vegas Sands Corp. and pioneer of the convention business, told the summit on Tuesday.

Airlines are also feeling the pinch.

"Congress's efforts to point fingers has led to businesses, in some cases, not wanting to have even their top performers traveling, fearing that they will look as though they are doing something wrong," Doug Parker, chief executive of US Airways Group Inc., told the summit on Tuesday.

"That is certainly not the driver of the airline softness right now, but it doesn't help. And I know it is not helping places like Las Vegas," said Parker. "It is not a driver, but it is a contributor to this. It's one that we think is not fair and that is hurting our economy, not helping."

Hotel CEOs bite back at anti-travel talk
Image via

Premium Partners