NELLIS AIR FORCE BASE, Nev. - President Barack Obama recommended Las Vegas as a good place for a quick trip Wednesday, but offered no apologies for earlier comments that critics say have damaged the city's convention business.
"Washington's OK, but it's nice taking some time to talk to Americans of every walk of life outside of the nation's capital. And there's nothing like a quick trip to Vegas in the middle of the week," Obama said during a speech at Nellis Air Force base.
The president has faced criticism from state leaders, including Las Vegas Mayor Oscar Goodman, who asked Obama to retract his remarks in February that companies accepting bailout funds should not travel to Las Vegas using taxpayer money.
"You can't get corporate jets, you can't go take a trip to Las Vegas or go down to the Super Bowl on the taxpayer's dime," Obama had said during an Indiana town hall meeting.
Goodman said Wednesday that he asked Obama during his Las Vegas visit to endorse the city as a tourist destination, and was satisfied with the recommendation.
"He didn't go as far as we wanted," Goodman said. "But no sense kicking a sleeping dog. After today, it's certainly over as far as I'm concerned."
Nevada Gov. Jim Gibbons, a Republican, said Obama's comments Wednesday weren't enough to make up for what he called the "large worldwide implications" of his earlier words.
"What he said today, gosh, it was better than nothing, but when you look at it, it was next to nothing that he said," Gibbons told KLAS-TV in Las Vegas. "I would have liked him to say more."
Gibbons has said he believes the city lost $100 million in revenue due to convention cancellations since Obama's February remark.
Tourism officials said 400 conventions were cancelled or postponed from October to March, but they did not know how many of those were a result of the president's remarks or the broader downturn in the economy. Other major tourist destinations also saw declining numbers of visitors as the economy sputtered.