Washington, DC Dec 22nd, 2007 -- As we prepare for the next crazy travel period, with Thanksgiving, even Halloween seeming like they were yesterday the travel sausage machine splutters into high gear to cram as many bodies down the travel pipeline as possible.
Everyone agrees the system is broken, yet nobody wants to take the initiative and sort out the mess. Truth is it has been allowed to grow so big that it defies tinkering, which is all the politicians will do so as not to offend the many lobbying factions. Travel problems will be allowed to get worse, and become a larger issue for the next Administration.
It isn't that there is no actionable intelligence out there to help the traveler. There are databanks overflowing with information, and subscription services that can bring timely travel intelligence to their clients. No the problem is that there is no transparent mass media network to act as as an early warning system for the traveler. There is more press on Britney Spears latest problem than on travel risks affecting millions, often with serious consequences.
One of the problems for accurate travel intelligence is that destinations, resorts, hotels and airlines do not have the mechanism, and often the will, to brief the media on problems, or delays. They churn out endless bland News Releases the same as everyone else's, extolling the property or service, then hide their spokespeople behind closed doors hoping problems go away. The airlines, and cruise lines are world experts at this!
There are just too many people being pressed through the travel pipeline to keep on hoping that nobody will notice the delays and problems. Today a news crew can be on the air in minutes, and an iNews report can be sent from a cellphone within seconds. Bad news travels fast, and ricochets around the Blogs for months, even years. Having a cute PR lady with her MBA hidden in her office afraid to speak doesn't cut it any more.
Finally politicians are being browbeaten by the angry voters, demanding action and better compensation. That dirty word COMPENSATION! It sends shivers through the hospitality and travel industry, used to bluffing their way through crisis management scenarios. There is nothing in the glossy brochure or news release about compensation for bad service, and the industry likes it that way.
The flow of travelers down the pipeline can be interrupted anywhere, anytime, for technical, political or weather related problems. The knock-on effect then multiplies the issues, and spreads them nationwide, even globally. Watching a few second segment between the local weatherman and the 23rd Viagra commercial does not cut it any more. Most TV News broadcasts spend more time on the local Football Coach's feelings than they do on helping their viewers have a pleasant travel experience.
But the number of travelers keep increasing. The problems getting worse.
I asked an airline executive recently how having 269,000,000 Chinese joining the flow of travelers to destinations such as Miami, Los Angeles and San Francisco would affect the congestion. He didn't even want to think of it. He has enough problems working on scenarios of 79,000,000 Baby Boomers looking for their last fling and seeing the world before we destroy it.
The information is there, waiting to be distributed. The problem is we just don't have the conduit to bring it to those who need it.