Aspen, Snowmass chamber heads taking on D.C. |

Aspen, Snowmass chamber heads taking on D.C.

ASPEN, Colorado ” Fearing a dramatic drop in group business because of the federal government’s warning to corporate America about company junkets, two local business leaders have linked arms in a PR campaign imploring Washington to reconsider its position.

Aspen Chamber Resort Association President Debbie Braun and Snowmass Tourism Office Director Susan Hamley on Wednesday sent out a letter skewering Washington lawmakers for “demonizing companies for legitimate travel to meetings and events hosted here in our communities…” The two claim that the pending legislation, if approved, would cost businesses money and people jobs.

The letter asks people to sign an online petition prompting lawmakers to stand behind the meetings and events industry.

It comes after last month’s warning from President Obama to companies that they would not receive bailout money if they spend money on perceived perks such as out-of-town conferences and retreats. Sen. John Kerry, D-Mass., authored the legislation echoing the president’s sentiment. The bill was introduced last week.

“The companies that came to Congress in desperate need of help to stay afloat become their own worst enemies when they pull stunts like this,” Kerry said last week. “It’s an embarrassment that this legislation is necessary, but some companies clearly need a reality check to get their priorities straight so taxpayer money is used to get their house in order and not to pay for lavish parties. Congress has zero tolerance for this kind of excess.”

The proposal has been blasted by the hotel, travel and convention industries. Such markets as the Aspen-Snowmass area rely heavily on group sales, Hamley said Wednesday.

“A good base of our business is group sales,” she said. “We have six people working in group sales.”

Hamley said corporate trips and meetings are getting an unfair shake by Washington.

“They’re making it black and white,” she said. “They are scaring other companies from traveling because it will be perceived as boondoggles.”

In a related development Wednesday, the U.S. Travel Association announced its PR campaign to fend off what it called “negative attacks on the meetings industry by Capitol Hill and the mainstream media.”

Named “Meetings Mean Business,” the campaign will launch an advertising blitz in both the print and television media, according to published reports. Braun and Hamley are piggybacking on that platform.

Hamley said there are numerous conferences and events in Snowmass, which can accommodate up to 5,000 guests, that don’t fit the bill to which Kerry and Obama have described as junkets.

She also said that the legislation would be counterproductive. The less people travel and stay at lodges, the more the economy will suffer, she said.

“The legislation being introduced would only make things worse,” she said.

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