Editorials The good stuff December 21, 2009 Share 1 -- The list is familiar: terrorism, war, SARS, bankruptcies, fuel crisis, norovirus, financial crisis, swine flu, recession -- it was a decade of troubles for the travel business, capped by a troubling year. But as we borrow a phrase from Robert Graves and say "Good-Bye to All That," we should pause and take note of the good stuff. For travel professionals, this decade is unlikely to go down in history as the "golden age" of anything, but it did leave some things for travel people to be thankful for and proud of. For one thing, travel became a much greener business in this decade. Even the airlines, which have no substitute for jet fuel, are doing more with less. And early experiments have shown that biofuels offer some opportunity for airlines to reduce their reliance on fossil fuel. The environmental movement began in the 1970s, but it went mainstream in the last decade with the arrival of hybrid cars, energy-efficient lighting, mass recycling and smart buildings. We believe these are positive developments for the planet, and we believe the travel industry has done its part. Granted, many companies adopt green practices to stay in the good graces of their customers, but that's fine too. If you believe, as we do, that in the long run, green is better, then we have made progress in this decade. The successful test flight of the 787 Dreamliner last week is yet another testament to this progress. Boeing has invested billions in this project, and the world's airlines had ordered an unprecedented 800 aircraft even before the Dreamliner's first flight. These are good signs. Travel and hospitality also got better in the last decade. Hotels are better than ever. You don't have to go very far up the scale to find name-brand accommodations, all across the country, that offer creature comforts equal to or better than what you're accustomed to at home. We take it for granted, but this wasn't always the case. Cruise ships have raised the bar even more. Even the airlines, as challenged as they have been by internal and external factors, maintained quality in the one category that trumps all others: safety. Though accidents will never be eliminated entirely, the statistics suggest that the safety of air travel is as good as it's ever been. The accident rate for U.S. airlines has remained at or below 0.0004 per million miles flown throughout the decade. It should also be remembered that a lot of what made this year and this decade unpleasant for the travel industry were external factors, such as terrorism, oil prices or recession. After every jolt, travel proved its resilience time and again, demonstrating repeatedly that the industry's fundamentals remain sound. We have always believed that travel remains desirable and necessary and that as standards of living improve around the world, it will continue to attract capital investment. The very overcapacity that now clouds the short-term outlook for the hotel industry is a validation of that fact. This is not to say that any segment of the travel business can rest on its laurels. Like any product or service, travel must be marketed. But let's not forget, as we look back on a decade of dreadful stuff, that what we bring to the world's marketplace is something that people have always desired: the ability to be in another place. It is our year-end, decade-end, holiday wish that everybody involved in the enterprise of travel can continue to fulfill that desire, in peace and prosperity.