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Travel group campaign responds to trip cancellations

WASHINGTON — Enough already with business event bashing, the nation’s travel leaders are saying in a campaign launched today aimed at stopping an industry slide.

The U.S. Travel Association is pushing back against a tumble brought on by the recession but made worse by bad-mouthing from a handful of members of Congress and President Barack Obama.

While their remarks were aimed at trips taken by companies that have accepted federal bailout dollars, industry leaders say fallout has spread throughout the corporate world.

The result has been millions of dollars in meetings and events being cut back, canceled or being left on the planning board. Las Vegas is a major victim, as it expects to lose $20 million in trips from Fortune 500 clients.

A survey by Meetings and Conventions Magazine showed more than 20 percent of companies that have not received bailout money have canceled events, with fear of bad publicity a big factor.

"What has occurred is we have a witch hunt mentality, and this has a huge cost, not just in dollars but for the people who work in the industry," said Roger Dow, president of the U.S. Travel Association.

"A climate of fear is killing (destination) communities and it has to stop," Dow said.

Organizers would not say how much they will spend on the advertising and grass-roots effort. But they said they will be getting creative.

One plan is to seek out a "face of the travel industry" in an American Idol-style star search.

"We have all heard about Joe the Plumber. We are looking for Joe the Bellman," said Geoff Freeman, U.S. Travel Association Senior vice president of public affairs. Open auditions will be held and hopefuls will be invited to submit 60-second clips on why they should be chosen.


Contact Stephens Washington Bureau Chief Steve Tetreault at stetreault@stephensmedia.com or 202-783-1760.

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