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DC Hotels Suffer As Federal Conferences Cancel, Cut Costs

Hotels in Washington, DC, are facing numerous cancellations from the federal government, which has been looking to cut conference spending.

The $16 muffin did it.

Last year, a story about a Washington, DC, hotel, the Capitol Hilton, charging a federal agency $16 for muffins grew wings in the mainstream media. And since then, conference spending in the region — or by the federal government — has never been the same, with some hotels frequently dealing with cancellations.

[Government agencies] prefer to pay the cancellation fee rather than pay for the conference or food or beverages.

Here’s a breakdown:

The cause: Since the now-debunked report came out regarding the $16 muffins, federal conference spending has been in the crosshairs. The knocks have kept coming, with conferences — most recently the Association of the United States Army’s annual meeting — facing severe cuts in federal spending.

The effect: Many hotels in the DC region have struggled with an onslaught of canceled events, as federal agencies look to cut $2 billion in conference costs by November 2013. For example, the Regency in Arlington, Virginia’s Crystal City neighborhood has already suffered $1 million in cancellations this year. “It has been very hurtful for us. [Government agencies] prefer to pay the cancellation fee rather than pay for the conference or food or beverages,” the hotel’s general manager, Jean-Marc Dizard, told The Washington Post.

The result: Many hotels have chosen to woo outside groups, including trade associations, corporations, and even weddings, to replace the lost business. “We’re looking to the financial community, law firms, gas and oil, food services,” Michael Snapkoski of the Lansdowne Resort in Leesburg, Virginia, told the paper. “Anything not associated with the government seems to be doing OK.” Other hotels are trying to work around the limitations, creating thriftier menus in an effort to cut costs to government agencies.

Have you been on the other side of this, pushing for the cuts? Any advice you’d give to DC hotels looking to avoid cancellations?

(photo by SurfaceWarriors/Flickr)

Ernie Smith

By Ernie Smith

Ernie Smith is a senior editor for Associations Now, a former newspaper guy, and a man who is dangerous when armed with a good pun. MORE

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