Front Desk

We Already Had an AIG Effect, Let's Avoid a DOJ Impact

The recent roller-coaster ride of the stock market and renewed fears of a double-dip recession have this autumn already feeling all too familiar. Three years ago, the credit markets and Wall Street were in a freefall and thanks to a ritzy incentive trip by American International Group, luxury travel and incentive meetings were under assault by the government and media.

The recession and ensuing aftermath from the AIG Effect led to the worst downturn in hotel industry history, and the luxury segment is still fighting to recoup what was lost in group business pricing.

Now instead of the AIG Effect, we've got the crumby DOJ Impact, or Muffin-Gate, or whatever you want to call it. As the economy and industry continue to teeter between recovery and recession, the last thing the hotel industry needs is a public outcry against group business.

But that's exactly what is happening after a report showed the Department of Justice's spending on 2008 and 2009 conferences, including the salacious sounding $16 muffins served at the nearby Capital Hilton in Washington D.C. Hilton has responded, saying the price tag was for the entire breakfast offering, not just the muffin. The DOJ has since concurred, but the issue won't die.

It's become political, and government watchdog and right-leaning sites continue to keep the story alive. How long will it be until we hear from the left about $23 crackers and cheese served at a Republican debate or some other official function? It's just another example of the political gridlock stymieing this country.

Yes, government waste is a serious concern and something this country can ill afford, but let's not point fingers at hotels and scare others from holding, attending and enjoying conferences and meetings. Let's hope the letters D-O-J don't become part of this year's industry lexicon.

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