Travel Industry to Cope with War

The Washington Times (Washington, DC), March 18, 2003 | Go to article overview

Travel Industry to Cope with War


Byline: Donna De Marco, THE WASHINGTON TIMES

The travel and tourism industry, still recovering from the devastating effects of the September 11 terrorist attacks, is bracing for war.

Popular tourist destinations are getting ready to fight a familiar battle - and take the necessary steps to minimize the loss of business -despite the uncertainty of the war and the effects it will have on the economy and consumer spending.

"Wars are never good for tourism," said Cristyne L. Nicholas, president and chief executive of NYC & Co., New York City's marketing organization. "This is an issue for all visitor destinations."

Industry officials say the unknown elements of a war with Iraq - when it will start, how long it will last and any retaliation on U.S. soil - make it difficult to figure out what they need to do when planning marketing efforts. But all agree that sitting back and doing nothing is not an option.

"We can't afford to be observers," said Nicki E. Grossman, president of the Greater Fort Lauderdale Convention & Visitors Bureau. "There's a great potential for loss. We're going to continue to prepare for the worst and be hopeful for the best."

The Fort Lauderdale area - which posted an 8.5 percent decrease in revenue last year - has in place advertising efforts, including specials and discounts, and can start them at a moment's notice.

Once war begins, the bureau will determine through focus groups and research when the appropriate time will be to continue advertising and marketing.

"I think the travel industry is going to take a wait-and-see attitude and respond accordingly," said Bob Jones, an analyst with OneTravel.com, an online travel service.

Mr. Jones expects consumers will travel, but will change their plans. For example, they will avoid high-risk destinations.

"The people who have always traveled are traveling," Mr. Jones said. "Those who haven't traveled since 9/11 still aren't traveling."

Orlando, Fla., home of Walt Disney World and other amusement parks, isn't taking any chances. Officials there have devised several plans to determine the duration and type of advertising to be used in coming weeks.

"We're being very flexible because we don't know how this will play out," said Danielle Saba Courtenay, a spokeswoman for Orlando/Orange County Convention & Visitors Bureau Inc.

Many travel and tourism officials expect the inevitable: visitation will drop, especially in the weeks immediately following an official declaration of war - similar to the results of the 1990-91 Persian Gulf war. …

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