It comes as a complete surprise to many that Tourism and Leisure should be used in the same sentence as Intelligence. Surely that is for military and politics? And to consider the Politics of Tourism as a major analytical focus really confuses the casual observer. We have been tracking leisure and tourism since 1992, when we created LeisureTime Network (LTN). Today we have powerful computers tracking tourism and leisure, just as we track every politician for Political Intelligence.
Consider the leisure industry, including sports, hospitality, restaurants, theme parks and their support industries constitutes the largest employment block in the world and many countries, regions and communities survive on tourism. Consider the effects of political decisions in Washington DC on the investments and profitability of tourist ventures, and you begin to get the picture
Tourism and Leisure Intelligence is a latecomer to these industries.The hotel industry is particularly bad at this and the number of properties built in the wrong place bear witness to this failing. The same applies to the pricing structure, and the amenities they offer.
Living for many years in Orlando, Florida it was an absolute amazement at the rationale behind the many millions of dollars spent on hair brained attractions. Build it and they will come was the philosophy of many developers. Well guess what, they didn't come, because they were exhausted, and they had no money left.
The same applies here in Washington, DC. Millions are being pumped into new, upscale restaurants, with creative menus and surroundings. That is if you can get to read the menu across the police barrier, and if you can reach the restaurant without parking your car across town, and walking through the anti-terrorism barricades. The restaurant owners can't fathom that whilst civic leaders are extolling the growth in tourism, there are no tourists coming to their area. Remember that tourist offices are there to support the people who pay their bills and salaries. They are not there to act as independent news agencies reporting the huge increase in crime, drugs, gang violence, and low occupancy because the tourists have gone elsewhere.
The huge new convention facilities being built are a tribute to the perceived need to accommodate the huge exhibitions. Trouble is these are dying, downsizing, and being cancelled, even as new Convention Centers open. The glossy brochures show exhibition attendees thronging the aisles, foyers and reception areas. They don't show the empty White Elephant vacant for the rest of the year.
Finding out that fact is the responsibility of corporate intelligence analysts, and not the responsibility of the Convention Bureau to tell everyone where their bad investments were made.
The same is for companies in the vacation and package tours business. Sending a young kid, straight out of college to inspect a new property is a recipe for disaster. They do not know what to look for, and what questions to ask, and where to ask them in the surrounding area. Most I have met over the past fifteen years have been so full of themselves, and the joy of staying in "Cool" hotels and resorts that they miss the obvious.
The obvious is of course that tourism, or leisure is notoriously cyclic, and the analysts have to be constantly monitoring the locations, existing facilities, planned facilities, and the overall environment of the are, and of course the whims of the visitors, and the media images of the whole area.
That is why the Florida politicians are so anti Cuba. They see the looming disaster to tourism. Millions have been lost be following the crowds with investments. Billions have been made by being ahead of the crowd, and having them flock to be the first of many to stay at new resorts.
And what of the future?
The airlines are in deep trouble. Leisure time, especially in America is being cut to the bone. terrorism, despite what Bush would have you believe, is on the increase after the invasion of Iraq. The leisure resorts are being overbuilt, and the pool of good hospitality staff has dried up. Visitors have to tolerate being served by the dregs in many places. Their response is to vote with their feet and find a new place for the next vacation, and that applies to restaurants, hotels, theme parks and all tourist attractions.
Smart analysts know that dirty, untidy resorts and restaurants, with poor service are the pre-cursor to failure. The management see only the sort term bottom line, and need that intelligence to shape their future commitment to the failing entity.
The one constant about leisure intelligence is change!