When President Obama said, in February at a town hall meeting in Indiana, "You can't take a trip to Las Vegas or down to the Super Bowl on the taxpayers' dime," he was referencing the corporate extravagance of the executives of companies that are receiving government funds. After all, who wants to pay for someone else's weekend romps out of his or her own tax dollars?
Unfortunately, the statement was interpreted as, all executives and sales people are going to Vegas in a party bus to tool around town clubbing, walking the Las Vegas Strip with foot-long hurricane glasses and playing roulette. (Learn the ABCs of the bailout in Bailout Alphabet Soup.)
In fact, it's quite the opposite. According to Jeremy Handle, the Las Vegas Convention & Visitors Authority spokesperson, average attendees of a convention in Vegas spend three to five more hours on the convention floor than they do in other cities. This is because, since Vegas never closes, there's no rush for leisure time. Attendees can go to dinner, see a show or enjoy other activities after 7pm, when the convention doors are closed.
Also, more business meetings - that would take dozens of separate trips otherwise - can be conducted in one central location. A survey, conducted by the Las Vegas Convention & Visitors Authority, shows 50% of convention attendees are the final decision makers for contracts. (To find out more about bailouts in history, read Top U.S. Government Financial Bailouts.)
Consider the difference between paying for one coach ticket ($300) and four nights in a hotel ($100 per night) versus 12 coach tickets ($300 each) and two nights of hotels per business trip ($100 per night), if you happen to meet with just 12 of these people in a four-day convention. That's a savings of $5,300.
Thus, attending a convention - especially one in Vegas – is actually a great use of taxpayers' and investors' dollars. Plus, do we really want to have to bail out Vegas and the entire travel industry including airlines, rental car agencies, hotels and travel agencies due to business travel being shunned?
The stigma of going to Vegas is affecting convention attendance. While President Obama's comments were meant for companies taking tax dollars from the bailouts for leisure trips, the Las Vegas Convention & Visitors Authority reports that overall meeting attendance in Las Vegas is down 30% for convention attendance and 19% for meetings held in March, 2009, compared to March, 2008. How did America's economy tumble so quickly? Find out in The Fall Of The Market In The Fall Of 2008.)
Businesses need to do everything in their power in order to drum up business for the least amount of money, without comment from any government official. After all, the more businesses that climb out of the recession on their own through increased sales, the less likely taxpayer money will be needed for the next round of bailouts.