No Tourism Intelligence, Just Happy Feet!
Washington, DC May 18th, 2006 -- A reporter for a well known travel publication met me in a corridor and chastised me for writing negative things about travel and tourism trade associations. I should stop developing "Tourism Intelligence" and be like the mainstream travel media and focus on "Happy Feet".
"Happy Feet Mr. Simpson, happy to be on vacation, happy to enjoy the fruits of the American dream. No talk of nasties on the horizon."
Oh what we lost when we abolished the Draft! Send all young travel writers to Iraq.
I learned I was "Rocking the Boat" by daring to criticize ASTA and TIA, "for they will not let you attend their Pow Wows. Happy Feet only are welcome." This impressionable child had just come back from a press junket and had drunk , danced and been pampered by a leading hotel chain, in return for glowing editorial, to run alongside their advertising.
I asked about how Peak Oil would effect the occupancy of that resort, and by the blank stare and wide open mouth got the message that "Happy Feet" and "Peak Oil" don't go together in the same brain space.
Later that morning I heard from another dissatisfied reader. This time a purveyor of concrete, with Italian heritage was annoyed at my warnings on overbuilding, and oversupply in the Miami vacation market. Did I know how much investors money was in the pipeline, and did I know how much concrete would be needed to fulfill their dreams? Unlike the "Happy Feet" of the travel media, this was more like a scene from HBO's "The Sopranos". I was informed that "It's all part of the Boom and Bust of Florida" and that looking into a Crystal Ball gets unhappy investors thinking whether they should buy concrete. If they want to put their money into more and more hotels, resorts and travel facilities that is their right.
Then I wondered, do these travel and tourism organizations have intelligence departments to warn their members of looming threats, demographic and economic changes and oversupply in the marketplace. Absolutely not, said one expert I called, "They are sales and lobbying outfits with the task of putting on a Happy Face."
Then it dawned on me. The travel media has to be the "Happy Feet" who dance to the tune of the "Happy Faces" and keep the money flowing, today. Never mind tomorrow, let's milk today for everything it's worth.
Color me stupid, but if you were representing businesses wouldn't you want to keep them appraised of changing market conditions, and prediction scenarios that can cause them harm in the future. But then the happy face would have to frown, and that does not get lobbyists checks and junkets. "2007 is going to be a bumper year, and 2008 even better. Oil prices have no effect on tourism, and they will go down after the summer."
Hmm..... Maybe they know something I don't. Have they ever studied the energy needs of these palaces of tourist dreams, such as Las Vegas and Orlando. And where do they think the tourists will come from to make Dubai the new center of luxury vacations. Of course millions could flock to Iran and study their handicrafts and bomb making workshops and we all want to rush to Afica and visit the refugee camps, or watch rebels fight.
Sorry travel media, I must remember "Happy Feet" and try and think positively about fleecing investors. Maybe Disneyland will open in Saudi Arabia.
Look at the energy costs of tourism, get some pain ointment for those feet, and look at what's coming down the road. It isn't happy feet!