Earlier this year, Jon Tisch and
Roger Dow planned to spend a day in Washington together, visiting
seven U.S. senators. Tisch, CEO of Loews Hotels, is also chair of
the Travel Business Roundtable, and TBR had recently agreed to
coordinate lobbying efforts with the Travel Industry Association
(TIA), led by Dow.
The purpose of the
meetings was to discuss how the government might work with the
private sector to promote travel and tourism. The appointments had
been arranged with the assistance of Chuck Merin, a managing
director of the political consulting firm Black Kelly Scruggs &
But the day before
they were to make the rounds, Tisch began feeling unwell, and he
let Dow and Merin know he wasnt going to be able to join them. Dow
was prepared to go ahead with the meetings, but as a courtesy,
Merin phoned the senators to let them know Tisch would not be
attending the appointments.
Upon hearing the
news, all the senators but one -- Sen. Trent Lott of Mississippi --
promptly canceled the meetings.
Dow speculates that
the other senators likely accepted the appointments in the hope of
getting political contributions from Tisch, who is very active in
Roger Dow is not
politically naive. He certainly must have known that having Tisch
along would help get a foot in the door. But he did not anticipate
that without Tisch, the U.S. travel industry -- with an annual
economic impact valued at $599 billion -- would suddenly find doors
slammed in the face of its top representative.
If I were with the
National Rifle Association, they would have seen me, Dow
It would appear
that the travel industry is the Rodney Dangerfield of lobbying
forces -- we get no respect. This is not a surprise to anyone who
remembers when, two years ago, Congress cut an appropriation to
promote travel and tourism from $50 million to $6
This year, that $6
million was upped to $9.8 million, but to put this in perspective,
Dow says that he met a professor at an agricultural school who
received $10 million to study manure management.
And to put that
into perspective, one should remember that the Department of
Agriculture is a cabinet-level position, while the interests of the
travel industry are in the hands of a Commerce Department
bureaucrat with the title deputy assistant secretary for service
industries, tourism and finance, who is, by law, not allowed to
advocate on behalf of tourism.
The disrespect for
-- or, if viewed more benignly, lack of understanding of -- travel
and tourism is not restricted to the upper chamber of the
legislative branch. Dow met with representatives of the executive
branch, who assured him that the presidents behind you -- he enjoys
a good vacation now and then.
A good vacation!
Dow was now fuming, not musing. Were so much more than that. Dont
they understand the importance of business travel?
Just as Mr. Smith
went to Washington and learned a thing or two, Mr. Dows experiences
have led him to formulate a plan.
occurs, he understands, when an industry has a political action war
Itll take two or
three years, he said, but weve got to do it.
Hooray for Roger
Dow. It has been painful watching our impotent industry do little
more than grovel before the power brokers in Washington for a few
In the present
environment, a cabinet-level Department of Tourism is a pipe dream.
But insiders believe a Presidential Advisory Council is not an
unrealistic goal. It would be a good first step, perhaps the
equivalent of manure management.
But if you really
want to stop, rather than manage, the B.S., a United States Travel
and Tourism Board must be the ultimate goal.