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Why Bother with Leisure Intel?

There is a belief that the travel and hospitality industry media is the sole domain of overweight ladies, and young flighty reporters only out for a good time visiting resorts.

But the Leisure industry is a business, and the top movers and shakers are far removed from the fluff that constitutes the image of the media covering them. Unfortunately many in between have forgotten that they are in a very competitive business. In fact millions of people depend on this business to pay their bills, and many millions more depend on the slim margins to keep them in extra income. No other industry depends so much on the whims of the weather, trends, images and the fickle public.

Sadly the vast majority of media material on television, radio and print has absolutely no value in making sure the industry can survive in the troubled waters that lie ahead. Any other industry, with so many billions invested, would demand much better.

But the travel and hospitality industry continues with the same old reporting, in the same formats as they did in the genteel days of earlier years. The pretty young thing relaxing by the pool, extolling the pleasures of being pampered. Yuck!

The airlines are plunging into oblivion, the whole industry is facing a recession, leisure time is being squeezed, and disposable income is shrinking. And the best we can fill out TV screens is inane drivel, the same every day, just the location changes. The same with print. Compare the news releases from the young PR account executives, with the stories in the glossy publications. They are the same. The whole global leisure industry is in turmoil.

Compare the number of Travel Agents five years ago to day and they are not the same. They are a fraction. How has that impacted tourism, how will that impact the millions directly, or indirectly employed in leisure industries. OK, got the point, now watch the pretty young host devour the most expensive meal in the restaurant, isn't she enjoying it!

The amount of industry news and intelligence is a fraction of what it should be, and when the global picture is analyzed the situation gets worse. The trends of terrorists groups are towards maximum devastation, and away from heavily guarded military targets. Sports events are now prime targets, as are vacation resorts catering to a high American population. How does that effect the running, and profitability of the industry?

How does weather and industrial problems effect travelers, business meetings, and planned events. Don't expect the travel media to let you know in a timely fashion, they have far too long lead times, and most of the programs on the TV were made several years ago. Their is no media mechanism with dealing with the "Now" on electronic media.There are some excellent high-end intelligence operations available for business travelers, subsidized by their companies.The Annapolis based iJet was one of the pioneers in this field, with an investment of around $20,000,000 to bring this service on line.

On a lesser scale our own LTN, LeisureTime Network has been moving it's focus from mass media, to timely intelligence programs. The new technologies present a whole new distribution capability, direct to the desks of decision makers.

But that goes against the traditional model of the pretty young thing, sipping a large exotic drink and explaining the benefits of being pampered by a well known resort. That's the only media model the PR and marketing assistants understand. Keeping their resort profitable, open and safe is far from their minds.

I must admit to a little irritation here. For months I have been warning a particular hotel that it was heading towards the rapids, and their canoe had no paddles. The twenty-something marketing manager with an MBA fired back that they were spending millions on renovations, and that their reputation was all that mattered. How dare I suggest that they were on the wrong course. She is now unemployed and the hotel is up for a fire sale. The General Manager jumped ship several weeks ago, his industry contacts gave him the same advice, and he listened.

The tourism bureaus give a constant flow of upbeat news on visitors, and many people make investments on that information. There is a fool born every minute. I won't be so rude as to suggest that their job is to sucker in investors, as well as visitors, but let the investor beware. Look closely at what these competing tourism office report, and what are the basis of their figures.

One major resort we have been tracking has the most innovative methods of deciding how many visitors come every year. They outshine in creative accounting. Tens of millions in investments are quietly running down the drain, as the numbers do not meet the expectations. What is more important is that the disposable income of their visitors is nothing like they assumed.

Not all visitors are created equal, no matter what the Liberal Arts Professor may have told you. Numbers of visitors, unless analyzed is a meaningless figure, except to indicate the congestion on the roads. The rate of global change in the leisure industries is moving at an alarming rate. The threat matrix for travelers and holidaymaker's is looking worse month by month. The picture when Political Intelligence is factored into the equation causes real concern.

But yet the US leisure industry still trundles along as if nothing in the world was changing, and that airline bankruptcies are a way of life, declining numbers can be offset by counting them in a different way, and that the oversupply of hotels and restaurants as we head into a recession is of no concern.

Recession? But the politicians tell us that we are in a booming economy. The same politicians who invaded Iraq to stop a preemptive strike on the USA with weapons of mass destruction.

And as we compare the issues facing European leisure, against American leisure we see another glaring development. The average American has now just over a week's vacation as against five weeks average in Europe. The amount of vacation time is shrinking in the US, as policies kick in to reduce time away from work, and the amount of disposable income available for the average US family to spend on leisure.

There is more need than ever to develop a corporate intelligence function in every company with significant exposure in the leisure industry.


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