"This is how you do it. You get
your facts together, then you say, Senator Windbag, tourism is a
$600 billion industry in the U.S. and has created 7.3 million jobs.
If it were to have its own department, it would expand by X%, and
for every $X invested, another 100,000 jobs would be created. Are
you for creating a Dept. of Travel and Tourism, yes or no?
The speaker, former
Sen. Bob Kerry of Nebraska, was responding to a question from Ted
Balesteri, a former chair of the National Restaurant Association,
about what it would take to get a cabinet-level position for the
Kerry then went on
to describe what he characterized as the atomic option if a senator
doesnt give a direct answer. If theres no commitment, you must say
that which every politician lives in fear of hearing: If you dont
support this, Senator Blowhard, we wont vote for you.
listening to Kerrys response were three men who, one would think,
dont need a primer in lobbying: Roger Dow, president of the Travel
Industry Association (TIA); John Tisch, Loews Hotels CEO and
chairman of the Travel Business Roundtable (TBR); and Vince
Wolfington, CEO of Carey Limousine and chairman of the World Travel
and Tourism Council (WTTC).
three Americans head the most powerful industry associations in the
world. The TBR and TIA already have a formal lobbying alliance, and
the TBR feels close enough to the WTTC to have invited its
membership to its member lunch last week, and to provide it with a
platform to announce that the WTTC will be holding its Global
Summit next year in Washington.
Before making the
announcement about the summits location, Wolfington told me that in
choosing Washington he hoped that the international community would
come to recognize that the U.S. government was not the Darth Vader
of international diplomacy, always creating environments that were
detrimental to tourism.
From my point of
view, its not necessarily just foreigners who believe that our
government lacks insight into how its policies affect tourism. The
day of the luncheon (where Sen. Kerry made his remarks), I was
dismayed to open my morning paper and read that the President was
advising Americans to conserve energy by avoiding trips that are
In other words,
skip the fall foliage and cancel that family reunion -- just say no
to elective travel. I understand that there must be a balance
between energy needs and tourism needs, just as I understand that
there must be a balance between security needs and tourism
But I also believe
that the absence of an official tourism director in Washington who
could explain the industry impact of government policy has
unnecessarily damaged the countrys economy as well as its image
President Bush may
not be Darth Vader. But his attitude toward travel and tourism --
especially in contrast to other industries near and dear to his
heart -- is not only indifference, it is profound
leaders tell me that a cabinet-level position for our industry is
unrealistic. But they add that contacts at very high levels have
been made in an effort to establish a public-private Presidential
Advisory Council on Travel and Tourism.
also understand that months have gone by with no progress report
from the administration officials who had been
statements made by trade groups, it would appear that lobbying
efforts thus far have been all carrot, no stick. It would also
appear that we have not received any commitment for even our
In good times or
bad, the energy industry, in various forms, gets this
administrations attention. Perhaps we can borrow from their
lexicon, as well as their tactics.
In other words, if
were not getting any commitment, perhaps, as Sen. Kerry alluded,
its time to go atomic.