Bill Introduced in Senate Would Block Curbs on Government Meetings in ‘Resort’ Destinations

HIL ANDERSON, SENIOR EDITOR
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Washington, DC – With corporate travel on the skids in the United States, lawmakers from Nevada and Florida moved to ensure their states aren’t cut out of the running to host conferences and meetings attended by employees of the Federal government.

The Protecting Resort Cities from Discrimination Act of 2009 prohibits government agencies from establishing policies that would ban employees from organizing meetings in cities considered to be “resorts.”

The measure was introduced in late July by Sen. Harry Reid, D-Nev., the Senate’s majority leader, and seeks to plunge a stake through the heart of the controversy created this Winter by President Obama. The president had stated that financial companies receiving Federal assistance should forget about winging off to Las Vegas or other resorts on the taxpayers’ dime.

The White House quickly denied that Obama was urging businesses not to travel; however, The Wall Street Journal reported in July that some leaders of some government agencies had nevertheless urged their meeting planners to forego Las Vegas and other high-profile convention cities in favor of smaller cities in order to avoid negative publicity.

Reid’s bill includes language declaring that resort cities are often less expensive destinations and have a better meetings infrastructure than communities that are a little more off the beaten path.

“If it makes the most sense economically and logistically to hold a meeting in Las Vegas or Reno, then that’s where it should be held,” Reid said. “Paying more money to hold a meeting in another city for appearances’ sake is unfair to all U.S. taxpayers and a waste of their money.”

The bill, which was co-sponsored by Sen. John Ensign, R-Nev., and the Florida Senate delegation, was referred to the Committee on Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs in late July.

Government travel has become increasingly valuable to convention cities this year as companies tighten their belts due to the sluggish economy. A July 30 report by the travel consulting firm PhoCusWright Inc. projected a 15% decline in corporate travel this year.

“This means bringing more spend under management and leveraging new technologies, including video conferencing, to bolster the bottom line,” said Susan Steinbrink, senior researcher and market analyst for PhoCusWright.

Reach Gary Myrick, chief of staff for Sen. Harry Reid, at (202) 224-3542 or gary_myrick@reid.senate.gov; Susan Steinbrink at (860) 350-4084 or susan@marketarchitext.com