A Bad Choice for Commerce Secretary

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President Obama didn't do the tourism industry any favors with today's appointment of New Hampshire Sen. Judd Gregg as Secretary of Commerce. Sure, the pick signals that Obama is serious about practicing bi-partisanship in his administration, and as a Republican Gregg should carry some pro-business DNA. But despite what the U.S. Travel Administration said in its fawning endorsement of the appointment, the likelihood of him being a champion of the hospitality industry and its causes is very slim.

Gregg is a career politician who's been in one office or another since 1979. Between law school graduation and his first successful election (just four years), he was a partner in his father's law firm. He's never run his own business, and while some say a state governor is really a CEO (Gregg served as New Hampshire's governor for four years), that thesis didn't hold up too well in the case of former President and former Texas governor George W. Bush.

Nothing in his resume or his Congressional record suggests to me that Gregg will be a strong promoter of any of tourism's key issues, namely a federal program to promote international tourism to the U.S. One significant way Obama could pump dollars and additional jobs into the U.S. economy would be a robust strategy to encourage tourism. It would be stimulus dollars well spent, but I don't see that happening while Gregg is in office.

As an aside, the only fun fact I found in Gregg's mostly bland bio: in 2005, he won more than $850,000 on a $20 Powerball ticket he bought at a DC convenience store.

Another aside, and perhaps a topic for another blog entry: It's no wonder the U.S. Travel Association (formerly the Travel Industry Association) carries no real clout in our business, particularly at the Main Street level. Its President Roger Dow's toothless statement today in support of the appointment showed why that organization is run by a cadre of ineffective political hacks.

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