Friday, March 13, 2009

More Looking Ahead, Less Whining

I’m a little worried that whenever something impacts any of the 7+ industries we collectively refer to as travel and tourism, we get better at speaking with one voice but it comes across as a defensive, self-centered, whiny voice.

Maybe we should not only set the record straight and express concern, but also spend some time examining more closely the truths behind some comments and discussing how to adapt to realities.

For instance, rather than just rallying to block earlier school start dates, maybe tourism should come to terms with the proven correlation between better student achievement and longer school days combined with short summer school terms and the proven popularity of year round schools with parents, students and communities.

We should be discussing how to adapt and change…not just stonewall. Better student achievement is also very important to tourism and there are always opportunities behind every paradigm shift.

In another example, when a researcher pointed to the incredible over-expansion of meeting space, tourism took it personally and raged in denial. Fact is he made some valid points overall that had already been voiced for sometime within tourism circles.

There are some serious problems with the way communities make facility decisions. Technological alternatives to face-to-face meetings have been percolating for decades. Rather than just quibbling, shouldn’t we be thinking of how to adapt, how to avoid the inevitable facility churn that will come as meetings continue to decline as a proportion of overall travel and discuss how to pursue opportunities within that paradigm shift?

And the long slow decline in business travel as a proportion of overall travel has been underway for decades. Travel experts have warned that we need to shift gears and diversify. Maybe this downturn will push us into doing that.

We’re right to be indignant that travel is being trivialized as an economic engine during the downturn. Especially conventions and meetings. But we put the wrong face on the victim. It isn’t just hotels, airlines, etc. It is people and communities. Travel by nature is an economic stimulus, because it imports tax revenues and spending. Annually travelers generate as much spending as the recently passed stimulus package.

Lopping it off or stigmatizing it as a luxury is like shooting ourselves in the foot. Would it be any smarter to encourage people not to pay taxes or to watch television during the downturn? No, it would worsen the deficit.

As the recent ad in USToday warned…”Want to Lose 1 Million More Jobs – Just Keep Talking.”

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