few weeks ago, at the height of the intra-NATO dispute, I wrote in this space about French, German and Belgian suppliers who were manning the booths at a consumer travel show in New York.

I asked them how they expected to be received by Americans, whether they were worried the transatlantic feud would hurt their business and whether any consumers who attended the show had discussed politics with them.

It turns out they were nervous about how they would be received. They also were concerned about loss of business. And yes, a few consumers did ask them pointed questions about how welcome Americans would be in their countries.

Last week I attended ITB, the largest travel show in the world, held annually in Berlin each March. It's both a trade show and a consumer show, and each year an American pavilion, coordinated with the assistance of the Travel Industry of America, dominates one of the halls.

I wondered how U.S. suppliers at a German consumer travel show would answer the same questions I had asked German suppliers at the U.S. show. So I entered Hall 4.

One might think it's difficult to market Texas in a country where 95% of the population opposes the policies of George W. Bush, but Brad Smyth, Europe sales and marketing manager for Texas Economic Development, says he isn't overly concerned about luring Germans to the Lone Star State. "It's our second-largest overseas market," Smyth said.

Smyth is confident any downturn in incoming traffic will be short-lived. "We're looking at a rebound next year," he said. "Especially if the dollar continues to be weak against the euro, and there's pent-up demand due to a war."

In the Florida booth, Eileen Forrow of Visit Florida seemed as concerned with the recent trend for Germans to travel farther into the U.S. -- rather than stay on the East Coast -- as she is with the short-term prospect of war.

Still, she said significant thought has been given to contingency plans for war. "If we go [into Iraq], all bets are off. We'd probably see a 10% to 20% drop-off right away. If that happens, we'll shift our focus in-state, then expand to what we call 'near-drive' states, then finally push on to the 25 cities east of the Mississippi that we consider to be our core."

One German national who asked that her name be withheld was manning a regional U.S. booth. She said she has heard some anti-American comments at the show, but not as many as she had anticipated. More disconcerting to her was that several people told her they were simply afraid to go to America.

Linda Fort, vice president of the Palm Springs (Calif.) Bureau of Tourism, was the only person I spoke with who admitted to being "a little apprehensive" about coming to Germany. But she said she's met only "the most friendly people," and believes that "the media is scaring the public, and hurting the travel industry."

Sandy Parker, owner/manager of the Best Western Sutter House in Sacramento, Calif., said that Germans only represented about 5% of her customer base, but she loves them and wants to see that number increase. "They're great guests -- they really take care of our hotel."

As for potential war, she's fatalistic. "Germans love to travel, and they'll feel safer in the U.S. than say, Turkey. We should let our political leaders sort out the problems -- we'll enjoy life instead."

On the whole, this group expressed less concern than German suppliers that policy disagreements would affect their business. Perhaps it's a reflection of the attitude expressed by many Germans with whom I spoke. They were less anti-American than anti-American policy.

Is the distinction important? It certainly is to the segment of the industry interested in inbound traffic. But it seems lost on those calling for a boycott of travel to France and Germany. Avoiding travel to countries that disagree with us on Iraq may sound appealing to them, but one should remember that it's a tactic that can easily be duplicated by nations on both sides of the issue. And if it is, the world will suddenly become very small.


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