s we get older," the older man said, with just a touch of self-conscious grouchiness, "we get grouchy. We get impatient and we get lazy. We're more demanding -- we think we know how things should be. We're part of the 'do-it-for-me' group of travelers."

The older man was Arthur Tauck, chairman of Tauck World Discovery and keynote speaker at CruiseTour World 2003, which wrapped up last week in Fort Lauderdale, Fla.

Tauck was explaining the appeal of tours and cruises.

"Cruise lines and tour operators are both after the do-it-for-me traveler -- the people who just want to pay once and have everything taken care. And that market is by no means restricted to mature travelers."

With both the U.S. Tour Operators Association and the Cruise Lines International Association as sponsors of the conference -- along with Travel Weekly and the Institute of Certified Travel Agents -- there were plenty of speakers touting the benefits of either cruises or tours, but Tauck was one of the few who defined where the appeal of both overlaps. After 50 years in the business, he knows a thing or two about the do-it-for-me traveler. He knows that, once this traveler has plunked money down, he or she doesn't want to have to worry about anything.

The problem for both the cruise and tour industries -and the travel industry as a whole -- is that, at this point in time, all travelers feel they've got plenty to worry about.

The speed with which worrisome things are coming at travelers and travel professionals is astounding. A few weeks before the conference, I had begun my preparations to moderate a panel on the topic "Critical Issues Facing the Cruise Industry," and had drawn up a list of questions to put to cruise executives. But looking at it again before the start of the conference, I saw several revisions needed to be made.

Questions about security and the health of the airline industry needed to be changed to reflect new concerns. I had originally had a question about the Norwalk virus -- the bug that now seems like ancient history -- but nothing about SARS.

Tauck's definition of today's cruise and tour customer begs this question: How does one get the grouchy, impatient, lazy and demanding traveler out of the fetal position and into planes and motorcoaches and onto ships?

The biggest clue to solve this mystery may be in Tauck's categorization of cruise and tour travelers as the do-it-for-me group. It may well be that do-it-for-me travelers today must now have things done for them before the trip begins. The cycle for them may well begin before they're handed over to the tour operator or cruise line.

In the mood they're in today, the do-it-for-me travelers are not even going to pick up the phone and call a travel agent. They won't research the degree to which cruise lines have added security measures, nor, for that matter, explore what incredible bargains are out there right now.

The do-it-for-me group needs travel agents to do it for them. Agents need to know these things, then pick up the phone and call them.

The irony is that in these tough economic times, it can be cheaper to vacation than stay at home. And in these insecure times, travelers will have more people looking after their well-being when they're on a cruise or tour than when they're commuting to work each day.

The do-it-for-me traveler needs to be told that traveling today is more likely to relieve their stress than add to it. If that message gets out successfully, much of the uncertainty they're dealing with will not only go out of their life, but out of the lives of travel suppliers and sellers, as well.


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