DENVER (CBS4)– Denver Mayor Michael Hancock and a contingent of six other city and airport officials are headed to Australia and New Zealand beginning Thursday for a nine-day economic development and retention trip. The trip is intended to “raise awareness of Denver’s offerings as a strategic, geographic location in the U.S. with a robust talent pool, dynamic business climate, high quality of life,” according to the mayor’s office.
Responding to inquiries from CBS4, the mayor’s office said the trip will focus on “business retention, Foreign Direct Investment attraction and building partnerships with government, innovation and business groups.”
Hancock and Eric Hiraga, the Executive Director of Denver’s Office of Economic Development and Opportunity, along with Evan Dreyer, Deputy Chief of Staff, and two security officers, will leave Denver Thursday night.
Hancock and Hiraga are flying business class to and from Australia, fares that are being paid for by Denver International Airport. Under airport rules, city employees are allowed to upgrade to a higher class of service on flights out of the country that are five hours or longer.
In 2018, Hancock and city officials were criticized for the cost of their upgraded flights for a European business trip, that were revealed in a CBS4 Investigation.
All other travel in Australia and New Zealand will be economy, not business class, according to the Mayor’s office, and all other city employees are flying economy. The trip is being funded from the city budget and from DIA’s budget.
The itinerary calls for the group to stay in Sydney, Australia through Oct. 15 attending various business meetings. The contingent then travels to Brisbane for two days of meetings before heading to New Zealand for two days before returning to Denver on Oct. 19.
Only one non- city official is traveling with the group. DIA’s Chief Financial Officer will be on the trip along with the airport’s Vice President of Air Service Development.