President Obama recommended Las Vegas as a good place for a quick trip, but offered no apologies for earlier comments that critics say have damaged the city’s convention business.
“There’s nothing like a quick trip to Vegas in the middle of the week,” Obama said during a speech at Nellis Air Force base.
The president has faced criticism from state leaders, including Las Vegas Mayor Oscar Goodman, for his earlier remarks that companies accepting bailout funds should not travel to Las Vegas using taxpayer money.
“You can’t get corporate jets, you can’t go take a trip to Las Vegas or go down to the Super Bowl on the taxpayer’s dime,” Obama had said during an Indiana town hall meeting.
“He didn’t go as far as we wanted,” Goodman, who wanted Obama to endorse Las Vegas as a tourist destination, said. “But no sense kicking a sleeping dog. After today, it’s certainly over as far as I’m concerned.”
Nevada Gov. Jim Gibbons, a Republican, said Obama’s comments Wednesday weren’t enough to make up for what he called the “large worldwide implications” of his earlier words.
Gibbons has said he believes the city lost $100 million in revenue due to convention cancellations since Obama’s February remark.
Tourism officials said 400 conventions were canceled or postponed from October to March, but they did not know how many of those were a result of the president’s remarks or the broader downturn in the economy. Other major tourist destinations also saw declining numbers of visitors as the economy sputtered.