Cruel fuel: Oil shocks
first rocked travel
35 years ago
What came to be known as the “Arab oil embargo” of
1973 produced shock waves in the travel industry.
The impact went far beyond the dimming of the
lights at what was then the Pan Am building on
Among the federal government’s initial responses to shortages and surging prices was a rash
of fuel conservation measures and advice to consumers, including proposals for the reduction of
“nonessential” travel, and the rationing of fuel for cruise ships, tour buses
and other vehicles engaged in the frivolous business of tourism.
This kind of talk galvanized the Travel Industry Association, which was
then known as Discover America Travel Organizations or DATO. The fuel
crisis gave renewed impetus to the industry’s efforts to speak with a unified voice in Washington and to have at its command reliable data about
tourism’s contributions to economic development and employment — a
battle that is still being waged.
Tradition of leading research
began with Harris in 1971
In 1971, Travel Weekly commissioned Louis Harris and Associates to
determine for the first time the dimensions and scope of the travel
agency market and to explore the sources and components of the
agency business. The research found that the 6,686 conference-approved
agencies produced $5 billion in sales in 1970; air accounted for 59% of
Twenty-nine percent of agencies delivered 58% of the sales, and it took
60% to account for 86% of sales in an industry that was not as consolidated at the top as it is today.
The 1971 survey was the start of a Travel Weekly tradition for researching and describing the agency market that continues to this day.
Way back in 1964, when I
first met Irwin Robinson,
founder, editor, and publisher of Travel Weekly,
travel agents were not such
popular folk with airline
and hotel/resort managements. I think the rallying cry from those
sectors was “go direct” or “cut out the middle
man.” Only later did the fancier “
disinterme-diate” term come along.
In any case, Ziff-Davis Publishing Co., a
rapidly growing special-interest publisher
where I hung my hat as legal counsel and
sometime publisher, saw all that as short-sighted economics, and we correctly predicted that travel agency sales would become the
backbone of the travel business.
Through the acquisition of “Robbie’s”
weekly newspaper, and Hotel & Travel Index, and the launch of the landmark Louis
Harris Study on the Volume and Character
of the Travel Agency Market, we parlayed
our bet on frontline agents into a major
publishing enterprise. I was privileged to be
publisher of those travel properties and later
president of a Ziff-Davis division that to this
day, under different corporate stewardship,
proudly serves that critical cohort of agency
I am rewarded by those memories and the
marketing intelligence that face-to-face exchanges continue to generate today among
leaders in travel.
Former executive editor
There was nothing like
an editorial meeting with
Alan Fredericks, our editor
and later editorial director.
They were held on the day
of publication, when Alan
was present, to discuss the
Page One stories and review copy. They
were one of the fringe benefits of working at
headquarters. Alan was a witty raconteur.
One of our reporters wrote a story about
an ASTA chapter still in its “nascent” stages
while the members of another chapter accused the new chapter of “proselytizing” its
members. Alan said, “These are nascent people saying others are proselytizing. … What
are we coming to? What is this, the Atlantic
Former executive editor
I started at Travel Weekly in 1993 after a
long career at the Daily Racing Form, where
I spent much of my time writing, editing
and assigning stories about fast racehorses,
fearless jockeys and canny horsemen. My
See REMEMBER on Page 10
FROM THE ARCHIVES
History repeats itself, and so do headlines. Here are
some examples of deja vu from the archives. Can
you guess the dates?
CARNIVAL CRUISES EXPLAINS
DECISION TO BUILD THREE
JUMBO CRUISE SHIPS
This sounds like something from the recent past,
such as when Carnival broke the 100,000-ton barrier with the Carnival Destiny in the mid-’90s.
The headline is from Jan. 4, 1982, and refers to
Carnival’s decision to order what the story calls
“jumbo-size” ships of about 45,000 tons. The
price? A bit north of $500 million for all three.
And the ships? They became the Holiday, Celebration and Jubilee.
Most readers might take this to be an obvious
reference to last year’s comedy of errors involving the new passport requirements of the Western
Hemisphere Travel Initiative and the backlog of
passport applications that threatened to foil the
travel plans of thousands of travelers.
It’s a good guess, but it’s about 25 years off the
mark. The headline is from May 17, 1982, and
refers to an unexpected 11% surge in passport
applications during the first four months of that
year. The story reported that there were 212,000
applications awaiting processing, extending the
turnaround time to three weeks or more. Last
summer’s backlog exceeded 500,000, and three
weeks was the approximate wait time for “
ASTA PLANS IDENTIFICATION
If you have a good memory, you might remember the flap created in the summer of 2000 when
ASTA rolled out plans to begin an ID program for
agents who don’t sell air. That’s a fair guess, but
ASTA’s Travelsellers.com, which continues today,
doesn’t involve cards.
Perhaps the headline refers to a 1984 initiative
to introduce the ASTACard, a program designed
to “help hoteliers recognize legitimate travel
agents.” That would have been Feb. 23, 1984. But
that’s not it, either.
See COME AGAIN on Page 10