On the eve of Travel
Weekly going to press with a Page 1 story about the upcoming
elections, I found myself, by happenstance, in conversation with
political commentator Chris Matthews.
The host of MSNBCs
Hardball was talking about how, earlier that day, he had grilled
Kitty Kelley, author of a book critical of the president, in an
interview. Bush-lovers will be happy as they watch Hardball
tonight, he said.
He called Kerry a
weak candidate but said he felt that in years when an incumbent is
up for re-election, its the incumbents record the electorate should
focus on. The question is, do you want to continue to go in the
direction youre heading? Thats what happens when you re-elect an
Its hard to imagine
what might have changed in the travel industry over the past four
years, no matter who had been president. Regardless of our
leadership, 9/11 would have shattered the industry for the balance
of that year and much of the next. True, the months of saber
rattling leading to the war in Iraq did more to hurt the industry
than the war itself, but SARS, continuing threats of terrorism and
a weak economy would have put the kibosh on growth in the industry
in 2003 anyway.
Even the industrys
recovery this year seems disconnected to politics -- its the result
of pent-up demand dovetailing with psychological adjustment to the
So, I asked
Matthews what clues he could gather from the incumbents policies
over the past four years that might shed light on the possible
direction of the travel industry over the next four.
The course of the
last four years has been towards isolationism, he said. The
industry is vulnerable to terrorism, and if we want to catch
terrorists, law and order has got to be a global effort. We need
France. We need Germany. We have Blair, but we dont have his
people. We have Musharraf, but we dont have his people.
And people are
important to the equation. When I was young, I hitchhiked around
Africa and felt a tremendous sense of goodwill towards the U.S.
Now, the world is lining up against us. We need them. Whoever is
elected has got to think about that carefully.
the eve of the landfall of Ivan the Terrible, John Noel,
TravelGuard Insurances president, seemed unconcerned with the
consequences of a third round of claims from travelers whose plans
were disrupted by hurricanes this year.
He and his wife,
Patty, were being honored with a Medallion of Hope from the
Nyumbani Orphanage in Nairobi, Kenya, which provides a home for
The industry was
well represented during a dinner benefiting the orphanage. Giuseppe
Cecchi, another medallion recipient, is owner of the Wyndham
Washington Hotel and the Washington and Arlington Renaissance
hotels. A representative of Kenya-based Micato Safaris, which
arranges visits to the childrens home for its clients, was in
The homes director,
Rev. Angelo DAgostino, talked about how British Airways pilots and
flight attendants made regular visits with supplies.
Regardless of whos
elected in November, the U.S. travel industry can do much to
generate goodwill toward traveling Americans.
about joining Noels efforts, go to www.noelgroup.com
and click Philanthropic Vision.
final note: On autumns eve, a winter chill has touched the industry
with the passing of Marriotts Terry Lee, 54, whose life underscored
the importance of personal relationships in business.
Theres no question
that he brought profound insight about travel distribution systems
to the companies for which he worked, but his effectiveness was
greatly amplified by his genuine interest in the people who make up