We know. You deny it. "Who us?" you ask, raising your hands just high enough to blind us with the glare from your pinky rings.
"They called us. We didn't call them," is pretty much what you told the Scene when we called you, Sin City. But c'mon, Las Vegas — Nashville gets doused with nearly 15 inches of precipitation in early May, and by a strange coincidence you suddenly make it rain with our convention clients. Thirty conventions moved to you after Nashville suffered a catastrophic flood — some having been offered bargain-basement room rates — but you didn't have any hand in luring them?
And then there's Atlanta. Et tu, Hotlanta? The National Baptist Convention of America gets free meeting space as an incentive to abandon Nashville — but you're deeply sorry about our tragic event? We take back every unkind thing we ever said about Gen. Sherman.
Obviously, your feigned innocence isn't convincing us here in Music City — where, by the way, we're doing just fine, but would be doing better had you any conscience about poaching our convention business.
"I would call it B.S.," Nashville tourism czar Butch Spyridon says when he hears these cities deny that they're exploiting Nashville's misfortune. "We know a number of cities called our clients before they were released from agreements — and before they had even decided whether they were staying or going. In some cases, clients told us their phones were ringing off the hook."
Apparently, there are always professional piranhas in these types of situations, and every city will one day have its turn. Toronto had SARS, you'll remember; New Orleans had the unforgettable Hurricane Katrina. At the moment, Phoenix is trying to reconcile the Arizona statehouse's anti-immigrant buffoonery with the message that visitors are welcome.
"You're all going to get hit, and how you respond professionally and ethically will either come back to benefit you or come back to bite you, eventually," Spyridon says. "You could, and should, allow a city an opportunity to assess itself. And if there's business we can't accommodate, well, obviously it's going to go somewhere else. But it starts early, and it continues its low-balling ways and ridiculous incentives. ... You really find out who your friends are."
We know it's tempting. You've got available meeting space and rooms in the dead of summer. You see the chance to book a large group four or five weeks out, noting the nervous meeting planners who are little unsure about what the future holds, anxious to pull off a successful event. And then you jump.
Congratulations on those notches in your belt. That said, Vegas and Atlanta (aka Veglanta), we're sorry you couldn't convince the Moose higher-ups to cut bait too — and bring their roughly 10,000 attendees with them, funny hats and all. Orlando was on the losing end of that right along with you. Instead, our antlered brethren are going to take a gamble on Music City — and after announcing they were sticking with us, the Moose attendance roster grew beyond the total for their 2006 Nashville convention. It seems loyalty pays off.
What's more, the FBLA folks, originally scheduled to meet at Opryland, are staying despite having to be spread over 38 different hotels. And their meeting venues aren't contiguous either.
"Moose and Future Business Leaders of America — both in the 10,000-person range — went above and beyond to keep their meetings here," Spyridon says. "They said they wanted to stay. They're in July, and [we're] like looking at them going, 'God bless you. Thanks.' "
Things look even better this week. At the moment, Veglanta, we're in the middle of CMA Week. Our crib is crawling with happy visitors taking in tons of good stuff in a hopping tourist district that was partially underwater just four weeks ago.
So Vegas, keep your heat, your soul-crushing traffic and your disappointed drunkards with empty pockets and shotgun marriages. We just wanted you to know that we know. We've got your number. And it ain't Lucky Seven.
As for you, Atlanta, being Southern, you'll know what it means when we say: Bless your heart. And the horse you rode in on.