Nashville and Las Vegas: Partners in the Struggle

One is wrecked by a flood, the other is wrecked because the flood dried up.

The scenes from Nashville are simply heartbreaking. To see the Gaylord Opryland with water pooling on the floors of its magnificent atriums, and the Grand Old Opry with a three-foot tide drifting through its hallowed main hall, makes me almost speechless, except for “Wow.” Dozens of meetings in Nashville have been canceled or relocated, and other cities have been magnanimous in accommodating meetings on very short notice. Also, it should not go unnoticed that the Gaylord donated all its perishable food to other entities in town rather than letting it go bad and simply throwing it out with whatever else needed to be discarded. That its employees and executives were thinking of others at their own time of crisis speaks very well of them.

Then there is Sin City. The country has not been in the mood for sin, or even for a weekend bout of monetary folly, for two solid years now. Doubly bad is the fact that many meetings and conferences whose objectives could surely be met in the serious meeting facilities of Las Vegas–and who could also choose from the plethora of entertainment options to help their attendees bond through fun experiences–are staying away from the desert oasis. Present Obama started it with his “boondoggle” bashing in late 2008 (how shortsighted was that, for a guy who seems so concerned about using the power of government to create jobs?). This made it necessary for corporate and association decision-makers to choose someplace–anyplace–else that had a less-suspicious profile for business events.

But if the tide of sentiment about the economy, and of Vegas as a conference host, does not improve soon, the wreckage of stalled and scrapped hospitality-business plans will become a vicious cycle, as properties and experiences get older over time but don’t get the facelifts they’ll need to stay attractive.

I am not a pessimist, I promise. And I don’t mean to bring people down. In fact, I do believe the worst is over and that people will start traveling quite a bit pretty soon. The hundred-billion-dollar question is, where will they be going?

In large part, the answer is up to you. So get crackin’ with creative ideas and experiences you can document in your facility or destination, and then show them off to planners so that they say, “Hey, that’s good. And different too!”

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