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Are Today's Times Really The Demise Of The Travel Industry
Between the rise of terrorism, even in places once thought to be "safe", and a host of incurable new communicable diseases it's a wonder that we ever walk out our doors. Indeed, if you listen to travel agents, tourist boards and airlines you are probably under the impression that nobody does and that the market for travel and anything associated with it is doomed to a meager existence at best. While even here at 21st Century Adventures we have seen advertising go soft and ad revenues decrease dramatically, I am not inclined to believe that it is doomed nor am I less likely to venture forth to just about any part of the world that will have me. However, we do need to address what is going on in the world and provide some prospective to you about what is really happening in an industry that during the 1990's flourished at a rate that filled everyone's coffers.
So when did this begin? What happened? Can we blame it on war? On international terrorism in the continental USA? The decline of the tech industry, namely the .com's that have .gone? Maybe it's the fault of the Euro? All would be partly correct but not entirely. Let's address each and the fallacy against laying blame on any of the aforementioned issues and then lets take a look at some real truths and what we can do about them.
First we'll deal with war. There always seems to be a war somewhere and the travel industry is international. I wouldn't head out to Iraq at the moment because I travel on a Canadian passport and look and sound far to American but there are many other Arab countries that I would have no problem visiting. For that matter, I wouldn't have visited the United States during the Civil War... it's a self preservation thing. The world is still a large place when your actually traveling within it and I have a list a mile long of places I have yet to see and wish to go so those places that I consider less than safe are placed further down on the list until they become safe again and they will.
Okay... what about terrorism. Unfortunately, it's a fact of life and it's everywhere. I remember when I was ten and was waiting at a pub in London for my aunt to meet my Mum and me for lunch. She was late. When she finally did arrive her face was ash white. She had been removed from a bus because of a parcel that had blown the bus up shortly after they had removed the passengers. I have been to London many times since. Though I will remember her face until the day I die it has never stopped me from going. I remember another incident at Charles de Gaulle airport out of Paris where a suitcase that I had carelessly propped my feet on blew up shortly after I was shoved in a corner and covered by a large policeman. I was older and I now have a more complete French vocabulary but again it hasn't stopped me from going back. I left Staten Island in New York just 2 days before 911 promising my son that when we came back that October we would get to the financial district. We didn't manage to get there but it had nothing to do with terrorism. The list goes on and on. I'm sure it does for most of us unless we never venture forth from our tiny communities.
What about the declining tech industry? This issue is one of my soap box issues so I will try to keep it brief. 21st Century Adventures has been published online since the first quarter of 1995. That was back before the Java programming language even existed to the public and html was still at release 1.0. I remember trying to get paid advertisers and explaining that publishing on the World Wide Web had nothing to do with the book Charlotte's' Web. The majority of the travel agents and travel companies, not to mention the small hotels, not only saw the Internet as the demise of their industry but as an almost laughable joke. How quickly that changed. By 2000 if you didn't have a web site you were so far out of fashion that nobody gave you the time of day. The travel industry did survived quite well before the existence of the Internet as we know it.
Finally, lets take a look at the Euro or just globalization of commerce in general. Love it or hate it you've got to admit that it makes it easier for foreigners to calculate currency rates and that has to be a good thing. The more mystery you take out of the day to day necessities of travel the more people who travel. A lot more Americans might travel to France or Germany if they spoke English! But you can't blame that on the French or German, Americans might be more highly regarded and have a more enjoyable time abroad if they learned to speak the language of the country they were visiting or, at the very least, took along a phrase book or language translation calculator. I have found that most visitors to the United States at least make an attempt to speak English and those who don't are treated with the same contempt as American's abroad are treated.
Realizing that all of issues mentioned obviously play their part, we must also now accept that theyare NOT solely, neither alone nor as a group, responsible for the decline of the travel industry. We must take an honest look at ourselves as an industry and instead of wining and complaining make some hard choices about what to do.
First, it is hard to step backwards. When times have boomed it is hard to change and tighten the belt on expenses but change is inevatible and our industry is ever changing. Face it, gone are the days when we could travel to every spot we promoted. We must now rely on those living in the locals we promote to provide us with accurate descriptions to pass along to our readers.
The computer industry may have declined in dollars and spending but the fact is we can't "unlearn" nor can we "give back" knowledge. The "technology" of the tech industry has not declined only the amount of money being spent on frivolous ideas that have no proven business behind them has. This should force us to return to the days when we had to prove the worth of our overhead and not make purchases until we could financially guarantee that the expenses were worth the overhead. Now we actually have to prove to our advertisers that their dollars are worth the cost. This isn't technology declining it's the necessity to prove the worth of your business.
As for the declining traveling public, there are two sides to this issue. Travelers complain about the cost of things and yet expect to get everything they want for a similar price. The travel industry complains about declining revenues and increasing costs yet refuses to take measures necessary to control these costs in a way that will most satisfy their employees and their customers. While some costs are certainly uncontrollable such as food and fuel the costs of large executive bonuses certainly are controllable. From the public's side, they need to realize that you get what you pay for. If you want full service you must be willing to pay for it. In order for a company to stay in business they MUST make a profit!
Finally, on war and terrorism, as an industry we can do very little about it except put "unsafe places" closer to the bottom of our lists until things change again and they will.
The truth of the mater is that economic growth is ever changing and we must adjust and change with it.