Business-related travel: One way to weather the storm |

Business-related travel: One way to weather the storm

My son Cooper is a fanatic about the Discovery Channels Man vs. Wild, pretending hes Bear Grills using his wits and a pocket knife to survive in an unfriendly, usually perilous environment. Watching with him, I cant help but draw the correlation of the current climate in the travel and meeting industry. We are facing enormous challenges during this economic downturn, which has been further propelled by media, government and public critics citing business-related travel events as irresponsible, excessive and/or unnecessary. Our industry has already suffered up to a potential 70 percent decrease in business resulting in the loss of 350,000 jobs and $100 billion in revenue for 2009 alone and we havent even gotten through the first quarter of the year yet. Travel and tourism is the third biggest economic sector in the United States, behind the auto and food & beverage industries, and its certainly a very large economic driver in the Aspen area. Who dont you know in town that isnt currently being impact ed by the decrease in travel and tourism to our resort? Recently, the U.S. Treasury Department announced new regulations for recipients of funds from the Troubled Asset Relief Program (TARP), which include restrictions on expenditures related to, among other things, conference and events. While it is certainly prudent to monitor the spending of taxpayer dollars to companies receiving emergency government lending, it should also be expect ed that elected leaders protect jobs and hasten the recovery of the U.S. economy. Business related travel generates 2.4 million jobs in America, $244 billion in spending and generates $39 billion in tax revenues at the federal, state and local level. Look no further than our local and state governments to see they rely on this kind of revenue to fund basic programs such as education, health care and unemployment insurance. It is in everyones best interest to support travel and tourism. Destination marketing is an investment, rather than a cost. The organizations, such as ours, that support the critical travel business need to ensure that fair and balanced information reaches our government, the media and the public at large. Meetings and events are smart motivators for the U.S. economy; they enhance employee performance at a time when it is most needed, encourage company growth and sup port the economy of the local community. According to a study of Fortune 1000 chief marketing officers, meetings and events produce the highest returns on investment of any marketing initiative. Companies are canceling business-related travel at staggering rates for fear of negative political or media attention, which is resulting in loss of business and jobs for the industry. We strongly urge government and media to fairly and objectively represent the business travel industry as an important initiative used by successful companies to reward top performers and revenue drivers. In times of recession, face-to-face meetings at off-site locations may mean the difference between survival or not. Im staring out the window watching the snow fall right along with late March occupancy. Im sure even Bear Grills cant save us alone. We keep hearing locally that snow trumps the economy and less bad is the new good. Now more than ever, local businesses are coming together to weather this storm as a community because we cant afford to do it alone.

For more information, contact Debbie Braun, president and CEO of the Aspen Chamber Resort Association, at Business Lounge is a feature of Inside Business, published Tuesdays in The Aspen Times.

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