Since 1976, when I first visited Las Vegas as a naïve and severely underfunded collegian not quite indoctrinated to the hedonistic patois of the city, I have probably contributed to Las Vegas coffers as a visitor no less than 40 times.
The accounting profession as well as the industry I previously covered, each seem to have a penchant for holding their respective conferences there amidst the backdrop of almost unimaginably large hotels and the tranquility of the surrounding Spring and Sheep Mountain ranges.
But that was then and this is now.
Apparently a casual remark uttered by the nation’s chief executive has further decimated what has already been, to no one’s surprise, a downward spiral in tourist revenues in Las Vegas. In fact, “decimated” may be putting a positive spin on it.
Over the past three months, Las Vegas tourism has lost nearly $132 million from year-ago levels. In January, the city reported a 12 percent dip in tourism compared to the prior year and convention business has slid nearly 21 percent.
Last month, President Obama excoriated those firms who have helped themselves to the federal bailout largesse and said on the record that those who receive proceeds from Uncle Sam “cannot get corporate jets and take trips to Las Vegas or the Super Bowl on the taxpayer’s dime.”
Okay, to be fair there are some cogent points there.
Yes, you shouldn’t be flying in a Gulfstream if you have your hand out every time the federal bailout kitty gets passed around, or sitting on the 50-yard line watching the AFC and the NFC battle it out for NFL supremacy.
But the country’s most famous community organizer seems to have overlooked exactly what a statement like that does to, well, a community.
Scores of corporations have been canceling planned conventions to Las Vegas at an alarming rate. In fact, some , 350 events have been junked since January including one for giant insurance carrier State Farm, which according to various reports would have garnered some 17,000 folks.
That, in turn, has translated to a loss of nearly a quarter-million guest room stays.
Okay, now care to guess who gets body slammed by that? Hint, it’s not concerns like Citigroup, but rather the thousands of hotel employees and restaurant staff members who now have truncated work schedules, or more likely, no schedules at all.
That’s not much of a community spirit builder to a city that already boasts one of the highest foreclosure rates in the country.
If there is a bright side to this debacle, I’m now getting inundated with email offers for Las Vegas room rates comparable to Howard Johnson’s circa 1970.
But I wonder how many furloughed workers in the city think back to the first Tuesday in November and now have buyer’s remorse.
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