Hawaii to Obama: Save Our Business Travel!
Travel Blog • Pam Mandel • 04.14.09 | 10:36 AM ET
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.