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Notion that Washington attempts to demonize business travel persistent

The notion that Washington has embarked on a misguided quest to demonize business travel isn’t going away.

In fact, it may be gaining strength.

Jonathan Tisch, chairman and CEO of Loews Hotels and one of the most prominent hospitality industry leaders in the country, says that’s exactly what’s happening as politicians look for issues on which to grandstand on the economy.

In a recent interview, Tisch said President Obama and others are hurting the economy, not helping it, when they make broad disparagements that use corporate travel as an example of waste by bailout-taking companies.

“With the rhetoric that is coming out of Washington, D.C., it is causing even a further downturn,” said Tisch, whose company owns hotels around the United States, including Loews Lake Las Vegas.

Tisch says even well-intended remarks aimed at genuine waste can cause collateral damage if they miss the target.

For example, Obama’s remarks that company officials wouldn’t be going to Las Vegas “on the taxpayers’ dime” was intended as rhetoric to show voters there would be accountability in how banks use billions of dollars in bailout money.

Instead, it raised the spectre that business travel is a needless expense and company officials who approve it could be called to the carpet for public shaming.

That can cause a chilling ripple effect.

“If the meeting is being cancelled, the food is not being ordered, the flowers are not being designed, the speakers are not showing up,” Tisch said.

Comedian and conservative pundit Ben Stein likened politicians attacking business travel to the Pharisees of biblical notoriety.

“Jesus railed against them as hypocrites because while they claimed to be humble, they really engaged in the worst possible sin: spiritual pride,” Stein recently wrote.

He continued: “In another example of Pharisaism, Treasury is now requiring the businesses that receive taxpayer money to have fewer and more modest meetings in more dreary locales — certainly not near the beach or in Las Vegas.

“This is an extremely unsophisticated attitude,” he continued. “I attend many of these meetings each year. The attendees have to work very hard to earn a slot at these meetings. This process actually raises productivity.”

Stein’s complete piece can be found here.

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