Lance Wieland, president of Global Events Group, cannot pinpoint anything the Obama administration has done during its first year that has directly affected small business owners in the hospitality industry.
“I don’t think the change of government has had any impact on the industry,” said Wieland, whose company (two full-time employees) provides full service meeting and event management for corporate clients. “The economy has not been good and business is down for everybody. The administration has created neither a plus nor a minus (policy wise) in our world.”
Although the president has not passed policies that have affected how corporations do business, his words lately have been discouraging to executives who depend on client face-to-face time to make deals. Corporate hospitality has declined significantly in tennis and golf events, venues that many believe are essential for closing business. Just last month Obama sparked criticism from Nevada officials after saying people saving money for college shouldn’t blow it in Las Vegas. “You don’t go buying a boat when you can barely pay your mortgage.”
Even Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid told Obama to cool it. “The president needs to lay off Las Vegas and stop making it the poster child for where people shouldn’t be spending their money,” said Reid. “I would much rather tourists and business travelers spend their money in Las Vegas than spend it overseas.”
So what kind of message is President Obama sending to corporations that have money to spend on client entertainment? And how is he helping small business owners like Wieland whose client list includes large corporations like Sun Life Financial and Dr. Pepper?
“I think earlier on both the Obama administration and Congress said a number of things that were probably not helpful to the hospitality industry,” said Wieland, whose company is based in Falmouth, Maine. “I think they weren’t thinking through what happens when you start castigating companies for having meetings or doing conferences.”
Wieland said, however, that corporate hospitality is seeing a bit of a comeback.
“MPI (Meeting Professionals International) and some other organizations really got out in front of members of Congress and explained to them how large an industry hospitality business is and how many jobs are affected, and that when you convince a Fortune 500 company not to have a meeting that ultimately it’s people who are housekeepers, waiters, and cooks who are affected,” said Wieland.
Now that health care is behind us (or is it?), President Obama can concentrate on the economy. At the present moment corporate blood is flowing ever so slowly. Fewer business executives are hitting the road to close up deals. Corporations are gun-shy, not wanting to look like spending fools to American public.
“You have to spend money to make money,” the old saying goes.
Right now there are many companies, big and small, that are doing neither. Maybe President Obama should address this important issue.