‘Travel less’ resonates. Now what?
Freeman, speaking at the Travel Weekly
Las Vegas Leadership Forum (see report,
Page 50), noted that this is not an airline
problem. This is a travel industry problem.
If we were to look at a vacation as a
consumer looks at it, he said,
And if anything goes wrong at
any point, it would influence how we judge
the entire experience.
On the other hand, each segment of
the industry focuses only on delivering its
component well. What can hoteliers do
about poor airline service or their guest being hassled by the Transportation Security
Freeman has identified the disparity be-
tween the compartmentalized way that the
industry looks at travel and how a consum-
er looks at travel as a major threat to our
Judging by the examples he used, avia-
tion is the weakest link. Five of
the 10 busiest airports in the
world are in the U.S., and not a
single one is ranked among the
20 friendliest airports worldwide.
Civil engineers recently gave U.S.
airports a grade of D. Two-thirds
of travelers said they would travel
more frequently if the TSA were
friendlier (and just as effective).
Complicating the issue is the
rise in aggressive marketing of
Freeman played a commercial showing
a man burning his suitcases and a woman
pushing her car down an embankment
into a river as the voiceover asked, “Sick
of traveling?” It was produced by a website called Go ToMeeting.com, which offers a virtual meeting tool. Its tagline at
the end of the commercial was “Do more
and travel less,” which Freeman character-
Americans were recently asked to rank U.S. enterprises, and the airlines came in dead last, said Geoff Freeman, senior vice pres- ident of public affairs for U.S. Travel. Behind personal injury lawyers. Behind health insurance companies. Behind cable TV companies. Behind the federal government.
Editor in Chief
ized as “an anti-travel slogan that works.”
FROM THE WINDOW SEAT
our biggest threats, he said, adding, “We
have to act like a big industry and have a
There are substitutes on the leisure side,
as well, he pointed out. Online experiences,
In times of crisis — when meetings were
under attack in early 2009, for example —
U.S. Travel has been a catalyst and a voice
for the industry. It has also found some
U.S. Travel estimates
that the combination of
hassle and substitutes
leads consumers to avoid 41 million trips
a year, at a cost to the industry of $26.5 billion.
traction in unifying the industry around
specific issues, such as visa policies that discourage people from traveling to the U.S.
Despite these rather large numbers, Free-
man said, the industry isn’t really willing to
confront this reality. Instead we say, “The
airlines are our friends. This is their issue.
We can’t control how the TSA acts.”
Freeman’s plea in Las Vegas was an ar-
ticulate cry to an industry to mature and
respond to long-term, systemic issues that
are broad, complex and real.
Freeman hopes these threats will force
us to think and act differently and make us
better. We have, he said, advantages other
I will add that, as a lobbying presence,
U.S. Travel has come a very long way in a
relatively short time, thanks in large measure to Freeman and the organization’s
CEO, Roger Dow.
“Everyone in Washington knows our
brands; we don’t have to explain what we
do,” Freeman said. “We are omnipresent, we
are in every corner of this country. Employ-
ees are passionate about this industry.”
The threats Freeman identified are cred-
ible, and they won’t go away by themselves.
He added: “I’ve worked in the pharma-
ceutical, health insurance and tobacco in-
dustries. Those people are not proud to
work in those industries.”
We now have a choice. We can rally be-
hind Freeman’s call to action or sit back
and watch as consumers embrace a differ-
ent call to action: “Do more and travel less.”
Yet we seldom come together to combat
Email Arnie Weissmann at aweissmann@
travelweekly.com and follow him on Twitter
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