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by Alan Simpson

Leisure - The Last Frontier

As Washington politics languishes in the post election Doldrums I find myself consumed by our new LTN venture, the World BBQ Network.

Many of our contacts on the DC social circuit believe this is a cry for help, believing that BBQ is a way of surviving poverty by cooking pigs by the roadside instead of lining up for Social Security. Not so, the international BBQ scene is shaping up like another NASCAR phenomenon. In Europe it is booming like never before, and becoming a way of life, often the preferred way of cooking, and entertaining.

In fact it's one of the few areas the Chinese aren't dominating, with the Indians providing all the marketing infrastructure.

The business of leisure is regarded as inferior to such as telecommunications, biotech or information technologies by those in the corridors of power, as they shell out more for dinner and a show than they paid for their computer.

In fact as the Baby Boomers retire leisure is the area where the money will be going. They have been beaten and bruised with promises of wealth through high tech, and now want to enjoy life instead of working all hours for the man.

Leisure in America is a whole area the politicians would like you to ignore. They used to quote the Lazy Europeans with such poor productivity that they had such a terrible standard of life. Now these poor and lazy Europeans have passed us worker slaves in the United States and have sympathy for the weak dollar, and a nation of stressed out, depressed workaholics with an average of a week and a half vacation time, if the second job will allow it! Of course that does not apply to Washington DC. Both elected officials and bureaucrats use the European standards, both in vacation time and health care standards.

Outside the beltway Capitalism rules supreme and the worker bees should be thankful they have a job. We totally underestimate the importance of leisure in creating a happy and productive workforce. We also ignore the leisure sector for investment and profits, except when we realize the success of Disney and the other theme parks.

But what has Pork Butts in Spicy Sauce got to do with international leisure?

Well the first thing is that cooking is global. If we don't eat we die. Secondly BBQ, in it's widest definition is basic in every culture. From Tandoori Ovens in India, to Pizza Ovens in Italy, to Weber Grills across America all are basically the same principle.

They are used outdoors by macho men, impressing their spouses and guests with their ability to master fire, flame and the family's food. Take that a step further and get a team together and you have the phenomenon that is sweeping the world of Competition BBQ. It is one of the fastest growing segments of the lucrative sports and pastimes portfolio, and suitable for the whole family. Anyone can participate.

The BBQ competition sponsored by Jack Daniel's attracts 22,000 visitors to a small town football field. Here over 60 teams have spent years working to be invited to compete. They have spent up to $250,000 on cooking rigs to turn out a Styrofoam box of ribs, or chicken legs. They travel the length and breadth of America competing with other teams every weekend, and dream of this day.

With them are teams from Australia, Great Britain, Germany, Canada and around the world, who have flown in to compete against the best of the best in the USA. This year the two British teams swept the honors, and to the utter disgust of teams from Texas and Tennessee, were pronounced as having the best barbecue.

Now President Bush and his Texas friends may be able to beat the crap out of Saddam Hussein hands down, but to be beaten at the barbecue by the Brit's, supposedly their Allies, was too much to handle. Especially as one of the sauces used was made from Elder flowers, not Jalapeno's!

Since announcing the World BBQ Network we have begun to get inquiries about developing competitions, festivals and demonstrations around the world, under an organized media umbrella. It's a matter of pride to fly the American Flag, even if it's to show the Brit's that the US still is King of BBQ, and they should grill American Beef, and drink a Bud instead of that stuff from France. Consider the numbers who attend these events, and multiply that around the world.

Ah, say the smart readers I smell profit! Well the number of grills sold in the US last year was 14,400,000 in a saturated market, driven down to ridiculously low price levels by Wall Mart, Home Depot and the other giant chains. In the UK nearly 10,000,000 were sold at a higher profit per unit than in the USA. In other words the global BBQ phenomenon is a great opportunity for the US to lead in BBQ equipment, sauces, tools and competitions.

There's more to Leisure Intelligence than talking about where to get the best suntan.

Now hours after we had launched there came an email from China offering 20,000 tons of charcoal briquettes per year for Europe. The Chinese manufacturers were close behind offering production facilities of tools, grills and everything you need to start a BBQ business.

The only email from the US questioned our definition of BBQ and asked if we were sanctioned by the Kansas City Barbecue Society, or Texas Barbecue, because neither is liked in North Carolina! And we still believe we think globally, and are the only Superpower on Earth!!

The world is our marketplace and we need to showcase our goods and competitive abilities around the globe. We need to grab every opportunity to promote our way of life, traditions, and peaceful competitive spirit, which doesn't involve fist fights between players and the audience, multi million dollar prima donnas high on drugs, or without an American with a gun in his hand.

Since the invasion of Iraq we have lost between 20% -30% of our exports to Europe and Asia. In some areas we still have a positive image. The Western Cowboy, the BBQ, Country and Western, all the values George Bush is pushing.

So if 22,000 people come to watch teams from around the world grill and smoke their hearts away for a weekend, consider the goodwill, hotel rooms filled, restaurants, gasoline, souvenirs, jobs, profits...

That's why we are in Leisure Intelligence and why we created the World BBQ Network!