Illegal Immigration and Tourism
Washington, DC. April 10th, 2006 ---- This weekend left politicians in no doubt about the feeling of the Hispanic and liberal community on the subject of "Open Borders" and what to do with the 11,000,000 to 15,000,000 illegal immigrants already in this country. It also showed how weak and useless are the representatives of the Travel and Tourism industries for they are absent in the debate over illegal immigration.
Tourism and Hospitality more than any other industry now depends on this flow of cheap, often undocumented immigrants to survive. Take a look at the average hotel today and calculate the damage if all the immigration laws were to be enforced. Who would clean the rooms, maintain the building and staff the kitchens. Then look at the kitchens and calculate the same for the supply of fresh fruits and vegetables.
Of course there are restaurants who do not employ immigrants, relying on high school kids to cook and serve, and others who use ethnic staffs in keeping with their geographical theme. But illegal immigrants not only applies to Hispanics, as our probing of Chinese Restaurants and Take Away's showed. But this cheap pool of high school kids is getting smaller as the restaurant industry booms and birthrate declines. Sadly too many inner city kids would sooner join gangs and kill a few people a day who "Don't Not Give No Respect" than work flipping burgers. This is another looming problem for future Administrations to grasp.
The dilemma has become larger as we have procrastinated and the failed Administration of Vincente Fox has not delivered it's promises. Mexicans in particular see the porous border as their ticket to prosperity, and in many cases survival. But it is not just Mexicans that come along this huge illegal immigration highway, it is a conduit for all of Central and South America. It brings in cheap workers, and criminals as well. The focus is on the poor immigrants who pick lettuce in the fields, but the rich drug dealers and their gangs terrorizing inner cities are even more important. America is rotting from corruption and greed and not just poor peasants seeking a better life by picking lettuces.
The choice has to be made by the American voting public. Do they want cheap food, cheap travel and cheap vacations, or do they want to pay the housemaids, kitchen staff, maintenance and building workers a good wage to attract local workers. And will High School graduates, given unrealistic expectations by out -of -touch academics want to clean hotel rooms after unruly kids in Orlando or anywhere for that matter? On a recent hotel visit to a major chain I came to the conclusion that many Pigs treat their Pig-pens better than travelers treat their hotel rooms.
There are many threads converging together to impact tourism over the next few years. Some are good, some are disastrous. The cost of travel will begin to rise sharply, as I predicted at the end of last year Gasoline will pass $3.00 a gallon in 2006, driven by the Oil Companies. That will have a significant effect on travel. The retiring Baby Boomers too will create a new paradigm as they migrate through the metrics. Add to these somewhat predictable effects a knee jerk reaction to illegal immigration, and you have serious consequences for all of the hospitality industries.
In many areas the tourism assets are overbuilt. Take away the foundation of cheap labor and the bottom will drop out of the marketplace. With the financial burden of a foolish invasion of Iraq still to be paid for, the future could be bleak if not carefully handled.
I do not advocate a total "Open Door" policy but hard working labor should be given some mechanism for it to support the US economy. We could of course charge visitors a rate for their room determined by the mess they leave behind. Or by what services they demand. Naah.... that would never work for we have become truly spoilt, and used to cheap food, good service on the cheap and living way beyond our means.
Enjoy it while you can.......