Government Meeting City Blacklists Prompt Legislative Response
Since the U.S. Travel Association this month revealed that some government agencies' policies forbid holding meetings in "resort" cities like Las Vegas and Orlando, a wave of legislative opposition has mounted: House leaders have requested a Government Accountability Office investigation, Sen. Bill Nelson (D-Fla.) has vowed an amendment to prohibit such policies and other Washington players, from Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-Nev.) to White House Chief of Staff Rahm Emanuel, have come out in opposition.
"We've seen greater legislative activity to address what is clearly discriminatory behavior, and we're certainly encouraged by the outpouring of support," US Travel Association senior vice president of public affairs Geoff Freeman told BTN today. "However, we're not going to rest until the policies are changed."
The association said both the Department of Justice and Department of Agriculture have acknowledged policies that ask meeting planners to avoid some destinations, and at press time neither had backed off from the policies, Freeman said, adding that the Department of Homeland Security also was in the midst of developing a similar policy. Freeman said he also has seen anecdotal evidence that other federal agencies have implicitly or explicitly implemented a "blacklist" of certain resort or leisure destinations for meetings.
Freeman said he is confident GAO will investigate the matter, while he also was hopeful that Nelson would be able to include language prohibiting such policies in any of the appropriations bills up for vote before the Senate's August recess.
"The big thing is this: At a time like this, you have got to look at all your expenses, and no one would criticize anyone for cutting back in a variety of different areas," Freeman said. "Everybody is doing it; it makes sense. We all have to tighten the belt right now. What doesn't make sense is encouraging people to spend more money to avoid what somebody else deems to be inappropriate behavior. To suspend more taxpayer dollars to worry about perception is certainly not the right policy."