When I started www.HospitalityMarketingBlog.com two years ago it was intended to be just that – a blog about hospitality marketing. While it was never intended to be a political forum, I hope you’ll excuse me this one time.
A couple of weeks ago I posted an article The Media Are Killing Us! talking about how ABC News skewered the Social Security Administration for holding a conference for 700 employees at “a resort” in Phoenix. Turns our the SSA got a great deal spending only $85 a night at The Arizona Biltmore ($11 below the government daily rate for Phoenix) with a total spend of about $1,000 per person for travel, food and lodging for three days. But instead of receiving praise for astute meeting planning SSA Comissioner Michael Astrue was ridiculed publicly by the media.
If that weren’t enough, the media hogs in Congress felt compelled to get involved. According to The Federal Times,
“leading member of two House and Ways Committee panels are accusing the agency leadership of being tone-deaf in holding the retreat at such a posh resort at a time of high unemployment and record government deficits.”
You can’t make this stuff up. Reps. John Tanner, D-Tenn., Sam Johnson, R-Texas and John Linder, R-Ga. wrote:
“At a time when millions of Americans are out of work and having to do more with less, and when the SSA has received significant new funding to address near record backlogs after longstanding funding requests made before our subcommittees, it is essential that great care be taken to use administrative funding wisely, in a way that brings the most value to the American people SSA serves,”
Now I thought I was done reporting on this and in fact I am. But here’s my beef.
Last Saturday I picked up the Wall Street Journal to read an article entitled, “Lawmakers’ Global-Warming Trip Hit Tourist Hot Spots“. It details an 11-day trip taken by 10 Congressmen (and six spouses) to study climate change. Along the way, they went diving and snorkeling at the Great Barrier Reefs, rode a cable car through the Australian rain forest and visited a penguin rookery and flew to the South Pole!
Based on what the lawmakers reported and the estimated cost for flight time provided by the Air Force, the Wall Street Journal estimates the cost to be in excess of $500,000. What are they thinking? Don’t they know that millions of Americans are out of work?
On that same Saturday, in the same paper I read, “Pentagon Takes Aim at Jets for Congressional Travel“. It seems Congress added over half a BILLION dollars to the Defense Department’s budget to buy eight business-class passenger Gulfstream jets to ferry senior government and military officials around the globe – jets the Defense Department said were unnecessary! What are they thinking? Don’t they know that millions of Americans are out of work?
Luckily an article in yesterday’s WSJ reports the Gulfstream jet scandal is over. The reason – an intense public outcry convinced a spendthrift Congress they don’t need to spend a half billion on new jets. Looks like they are getting the message – millions of Americans are out of work. Hopefully it sticks, however I doubt it will.
So, here’s the point. If you want to make a difference you have to speak up. If you want to convince the media and Congress that Meetings Mean Business you have to speak up. If you want the media and Congress to stop demonizing meetings and conventions you have to speak up and tell them to shut up.
If everyone does, the message will get through. Start today. “Remember the Gulfstream!”
Thank you for indulging me on this rant. Next week it’s back to hospitality marketing. I promise.
Safe travels. Madigan Pratt.