Just as most of us never expected to see the economy tank like it has, I would never have imagined how quickly what has come to be known as “the AIG Effect” is decimating the hospitality industry.
In his March blog, Bill Carlino, editor-in-chief of Accounting Today, described the situation perfectly. When President Obama said on the record that those who receive proceeds from Uncle Sam cannot take trips to Las Vegas or the Super Bowl on the taxpayer's dime, said Carlino, “the country's most famous community organizer seems to have overlooked exactly what a statement like that does to, well, a community.” I agree completely with Obama's comments about TARP companies (and the administration has since softened its wording thanks to a swift reaction from the hospitality community), but they have been twisted by the media into something dangerous and destructive and applied to every company out there.
A staggering 350 corporate “junkets” to Las Vegas have been junked since that single line in a speech, translating to a loss of nearly a quarter-million guest-room stays. And that's just one city. The irony is that these companies are still paying huge sums of money in cancellation fees. They are canceling because of perception, but the reality will be thousands of lost tourism jobs.
This month's cover story by Managing Editor Rachel Gecker deals with the downfall of down time in. According to members of our Golden Links Golf Advisory Board, golf at meetings has been cut by 30 to 50 percent. Anything that smacks of leisure is being axed — again because of perception. But incentive trips are paid for from the revenue generated by the incentive participants. It makes no sense. Companies still need to reward their top salespeople, especially if their competitors are. The same goes for any meeting where there is an element of recognition: They will miss out on the opportunity to motivate employees who, more than likely, face increased workloads and high stress levels. When it comes to motivating your hardworking staff, fun is not always bad.
The bright spot is that many companies are adding an element of corporate social responsibility to their meetings as a way of having fun under the radar, whether it be building bikes for needy children or painting artwork for hospital patients. These activities always should have been included, and while everything else implodes around them, I believe that finally they will be here to stay.
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