The 'AIG Effect:' Luxury travel just isn't cool anymore


Corporate travel has plummeted, and it's not just because companies want to save money. They also want to save face.

The hotel bigwigs of Miami-Dade County are now finding it hard to lie in the bed they spent so long making. There, A-list properties are reporting that a third of their convention business has evaporated since the start of 2009.

''We've worked so long and hard to have a sophisticated and upscale destination,'' said Miami-Dade tourism director William Talbert III. ``[And now] it's being portrayed as not acceptable to meet in this kind of destination.'' To that end, the tourism lobby is launching a search to find a "Joe the Bellman" type -- an average working-class dude a la Joe the Plumber -- whom it can use to shore up public opinion of its faltering luxury-travel niche.

After AIG was caught with its hand in the cookie jar, taking lavish $500,000 spa retreats while it was begging for bailouts on Capitol Hill, luxury business trips are seen as obnoxiously gauche. They could even be bad for business, as customers are now more likely to avoid companies that are seen to be spending their funds (or worse, government funds) frivolously. The Miami Herald says hotels are getting walloped by that "AIG Effect."

Originally published