Planners and suppliers
alike are feeling the effects of an executive order by
California Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger calling for the reduction
of “nonessential” travel costs incurred by state-run meetings and
conferences. The Feb. 19 decree seeks to curb government spending
during the state’s fiscal emergency, officially declared by the
governor in January.
The order has put extra pressure on
planners, said Emily M. Schroeder, president of the Society of
Government Meeting Professionals’ Sacramento chapter. “They’re
spending a lot of time with administration justifying their
meetings, when they should be focusing on the strategic planning,”
There are concerns on the hotel side as
well. At Sacramento’s Holiday Inn Capitol Plaza, where 20 to 25
percent of group business is government-funded, “We’re asking
ourselves whether the groups are really going to fill all the
rooms,” said Heather Washington, CMP, director of sales. Indeed,
the property recently has experienced low room pickup, with the
percentage of rooms being filled dropping from 85 to 75 percent. At
press time, no cancellations had occurred.
Some properties that rely on government
meetings are concentrating on other market segments, such as
Internet bookings, to attract new business; others are taking
another look at business they once scorned.
For example, Kim Davidson, a regional
manager for Scottsdale, Ariz.-based site selection firm
HelmsBriscoe, said the Embassy Suites Anaheim-South recently
expressed interest in hosting a government meeting it previously
had rejected due to a low mandated rate. The hotel cited the
“current economy” as the reason for the change of heart.