Hawaii to Obama: Save Our Business Travel!

Travel Blog  •  Pam Mandel  •  04.14.09 | 10:36 AM ET

Photo by bobster1985 via Flickr (Creative Commons)

According to Hawaii tourism leaders, “Workers who attend meetings in Hawaii are happier, more productive and more focused afterward.” That quote (from lots of sources, including the Los Angeles Times) is part of a campaign Hawaii has launched to further promote the islands as a business travel destination. Is anyone surprised to hear that a business trip to Hawaii cheers a lackluster worker right up?

But here’s the catch, courtesy of the Honolulu Star Bulletin: “Public anger at extravagant spending by companies receiving bailout tax dollars has extended throughout corporate America and created a sharp decline in travel to meetings in Hawaii, described as junkets. The state’s tourism industry is suffering as a result and faces a huge challenge in trying to revitalize business travel to the islands.”

They’re suffering so much that Hawaii’s governor, Linda Lingle, has appealed to President Obama. “Don’t dis business tourism,” was the crux of the message. “We need it to survive in this economy.” According to the Honolulu Advertiser, Lingle’s appeal was a response to Obama’s remarks discouraging flashy travel: “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.”

From the same Advertiser article: “White House Press Secretary Robert Gibbs on March 12 said Obama did not intend to discourage travel with his remarks. Gibbs said the president was referring specifically to companies ‘that are getting large amounts of public funding.’”

It’s still kind of a hard sell, don’t you think? For the White House, the focus is on companies not blowing taxpayer dollars to take that top sales team to Waikiki for Mai Tais and PowerPoint presentations. But I don’t think that most people care which pocket pays for the trip. The fact that the money is being spent on anything other than absolute necessities is likely to be seen as extravagant. More in keeping with today’s tolerance for exotic spending? Pizza.

Pam Mandel is a freelance writer and photographer from Seattle, Washington. Her work has appeared in a variety of print, radio, and web publications and she's contributed to two guidebooks, one on British Columbia and one on Hawaii. She plays the ukulele, has an internal beacon that is surprisingly capable of locating the best baked goods in town, almost any town, and speaks German with a Styrian accent. Learn more on her personal blog at Nerd's Eye View.

3 Comments for Hawaii to Obama: Save Our Business Travel!

Grizzly Bear Mom 04.16.09 | 1:06 PM ET

I’m with President Obama on this!  As a corporate trainer I attend my own convention yearly, paying for my mom to tag along.  When she was downtown, she was surprised and saddened to see the number of conventioners identified by the name badges they were wearing, playing hooky.  People come to training late, leave early, and sometimes I have to wake up people attending training sessions.  You know what they say, we pay for training, hoping we won’t get our monies worth.  Perhaps we should have conventions in downtown Newark, NJ or Toad Lick, Arkansas.  Only those who really wanted participate in the convention would attend.

Pam Mandel 04.17.09 | 12:34 AM ET

Grizzly Bear Mom, I attended a conference in Tampa last year and I confess, I skipped out on a LOT of the sessions. A LOT OF THEM. I did have the good sense to remove my tag before I did that. Though there’s a critical difference: I paid my own way. I wasn’t there on corporate dime or time. And I’ll admit, right up front, that I’d be hard pressed not to skip out were I to be shipped off to Hawaii for training. Hard pressed.

grizzly bear mom 04.20.09 | 5:40 PM ET

Pam, as long as it is your time and dime, no problem.  Otherwise we have a fiduciary responsibility to learn/teach/build relaitonships all we can at conventions, which is why I suggested that unattractive places that I did!

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