'Boring' cities in vogue as companies flee from posh resorts

Fargo, Cincinnati, Indianapolis, Des Moines -- your 15 minutes of fame among the convention crowd may be coming.

In the past two weeks, some major corporations have canceled conventions to Las Vegas, not because of the costs but of the image it presents in a budget-conscious, times-are-hard country, the Associated Press reported a couple days ago. One of those companies was Wells Fargo & Co, which had received $25 billion in bailout money, and amidst criticism for the trip, was shamed into scrubbing a conference at two Las Vegas hotels.

And now a subsidiary of Wells Fargo & Co., Rural Community Insurance Services, a crop insurance company, has canceled a training session for 150 employees that was going to take place in St. Pete Beach, Florida -- and has rescheduled it for later in the year. It will be held in Indianapolis.

Now, I'm not slamming Indianapolis or suggesting it and other places in the Midwest don't already do a booming convention business. Indianapolis, in particular, is a terrific city with the largest children's museum in the world, and I hear the Indianapolis Zoo has a fine dolphin exhibit . But I think even the most diehard Indianapolis residents would concede that it's not a touristy, fun-in-the-sun land like anywhere in Florida or California, and it certainly lacks the party atmosphere of Las Vegas. People in Indianapolis and other hotspots in the Midwest -- and I would know, I live near Cincinnati -- tend to go to Florida for fun. I'm not sure where people in Florida go.

At any rate, I'm betting that Indianapolis is just the start of a trend: conventions moving to less flashy destinations. Certainly, they're being canceled at vibrant, exciting cities. For instance, a television station in Florida recently quoted a hotel marketing director who said that corporations have been canceling and cutting trips, not because of the lackluster economy but the image that such a trip sends in a lackluster economy. Of course, this new mindset won't help the economies of Florida, Las Vegas and other popular destinations.

But it may do wonders for the Midwest. If I were the director of the convention bureau in Topeka, I think I'd be clearing the decks for an exciting, prosperous year.
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