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DOWN ON THE CLOWNS
10 ConventionSouth APRIL 2012 *
hose of us in the meetings industry have been feeling sick to our stomachs lately over the con- tinued news coming out about GSA's (General Service Administration) excessive spending— much of it on conventions and incentive trips. And, if reading the recent headlines about this scandal hasn't given you a headache, you're sure to turn green after watching the GSA employee videos spoofing the agency's wasteful- ness, such as the Angry Clown video.
While much continues to be exposed about the agency's spending, much of it hinges around the GSA's 2010 Western Regions Conference held at a Las Vegas resort. A report shows the agency spent about $823,000 on the event for about 300 employees. Among the expenses, thousands of dollars were spent on items such as a mind reader, a comedian and a clown.
This is not only an embarrassment to the GSA and the fed-
eral government, but to the meetings industry. Not only are GSA officials under scrutiny for their spending, but so is the meeting planner who organized the event. Whether or not you plan government meetings where tax- payer dollars are used, this scandal should be a wake-up call. One that we shouldn't have needed after AIG, but nonethe- less, one that we should all take to heart. Roger Dow, CEO of the U.S. Travel Association, wrote in a letter about the scandal that the travel industry could face "significant challenges" as a result. "It is clear during this election year, we can expect the value of meetings and confer- ences to be a visible political football to be kicked around." Many of you have been posting about this incident on blogs and sites such as Twitter. Pat Ahaesy, CMP, CSEP, a 25-year veteran of the meetings industry and owner of the meeting planning company P&V Enterprises, blogged that one of her
"The 'debacle' gives everyone else in the meetings and events industry a bad name."
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