Thursday, May 14, 2009

Mesabi Daily News

Democratic Minnesota U.S. Sen. Amy Klobuchar focused on the importance of tourism to Minnesota and the country on Wednesday while chairing a Senate hearing on the challenges and opportunities for the tourism industry.

It’s good to finally see some sane comments on tourism coming from Washington D.C. That has not been the case recently from Washington’s top two executives — President Barack Obama and Vice President Joe Biden.

Sen. Klobuchar properly pointed out that tourism is the fifth largest industry in Minnesota, generating $11 billion in sales and providing nearly 11 percent of the state’s total private sector employment. The tourism impact throughout Northeastern Minnesota generally and the Iron Range specifically is of immense importance to the area’s economy. The Giants Ridge Golf & Ski Resort alone generates a $45.1 million annual economic impact throughout the region.

The senator proposes that more should be done to advocate tourism in the country, including:

1. Promote the United States as a destination for international travelers by passing the Travel Promotion Act, which will enact a five-year campaign to attract overseas visitors.

2. Highlight travel bargains and options for more affordable, close-to-home vacations.

3. Encourage companies to resume business travel, including meetings for employees and customers.

No. 1 is fine as long as the price tag for the program does not exceed the direct benefits.

No. 2 is something that tourism destinations and local communities are already doing. They certainly didn’t need a Senate hearing to understand that. After all, for those in the tourism business that is their business, their livelihood and we are sure they didn’t need a Senate hearing to tell them that. The same goes for communities that rely on tourism dollars to help fuel their economy.

As for No. 3, we couldn’t agree more with the senator. Companies definitely need to resume business travel and provide work meetings and social gatherings for employees and customers. For customers, it’s part of doing business. For employees, it’s a way to reward them for hard work and company loyalty.

We aren’t talking here about the extravagance that was far too on display in the decade or so past. We’re talking about good business practices that include traveling for customer service and also as a justifiable benefit for employees.

And who also benefits from such travel? The hospitality industry and the millions of workers it hires, ranging from hotel desk clerks to maids to cab drivers to cooks to waiters and waitresses. And that list goes on and on and on.

But we wonder if the senator had checked with the president and vice president for their thoughts on such travel.

It was the president a couple months ago who so publicly chastised Wells Fargo for planning to host thousands of their employees over a 12-week period in Las Vegas that the company decided to back out. Who did that hurt? Those desk clerks and cab drivers and maids and .... mentioned before.

And it was the vice president just two weeks ago who basically put out his own quarantine advisory because of the swine flu, even though it was causing much less of a health care concern than did the other strains of flu during flu season.

What a ridiculous overreaction on both counts by the president and vice president.