On Sept. 9, 2002, Travel Weekly
published portions of a transcript of a roundtable discussion by
industry leaders. We had invited them to exchange their views on
the impact of 9/11 and the future of the industry.
Today is the fourth
anniversary of the first anniversary of Sept. 11, 2001, and while
it's important to pause and reflect on the impact of the events
five years ago, it's also instructive to revisit the industry's
vision of the future one year after its most cataclysmic
Czech writer Milan
Kundera compared predicting the future with walking in a dense fog.
One can get a sense of things very close, but clarity drops off
quickly. Now, with the benefit of hindsight, we can see how
obfuscated -- and, interestingly, how clear -- our view of the
future was four years ago.
who spoke at our roundtable as director of the Czech Tourist Authority, thought she saw a
"I believe 9/11 was
a huge psychological shift that will have effects for years to
come," she said. "It caused the impulse to stay home, be safe, be
with your family and not go anywhere you might feel
identified two of the lasting (so far, at least) impacts of 9/11:
The strengthening of the desire to be with your family and the need
to be safe. What was apparently still in the fog was that the twin
desires for more family time and for the feeling of safety were not
in conflict when it came to travel. Intergenerational travel is a
Adam Aron, then the
CEO of Vail Resorts and now on the board of Starwood Hotels and
Resorts, observed: "Ten years from now, it could be that the
structural changes in the U.S. airline industry are the biggest
changes that occurred because of 9/11. It is certainly getting more
difficult and more hassle-filled, and I don't see anything on the
horizon that makes me think it's going to get more pleasant and
easier to fly."
whether airline restructuring will be remembered as the most
significant consequence of 9/11. The government's assertion that
there was a link between al-Qaeda and Saddam Hussein and the
subsequent invasion of Iraq will likely eclipse all other effects.
But Aron hit a bull's-eye when he predicted a long life for the
hassles associated with flying.
then chairman and CEO of Rosenbluth International (now part of
American Express), citing the public's dislike of uncertainty,
urged: "Carriers that need to go bankrupt, go! Because that will
He went on to say
that consolidation would lead to three groups of affiliated
carriers: The first would be US Airways, United and America West,
the second would be Delta, Northwest and Continental, and the third
would be "American and I'm not sure who."
certainly did come to some of the carriers he had mentioned, but
that did not, in most cases, clear up the uncertainty. His very
specific predictions on airline groupings came partly true with the
merging of US Airways and America West, and since there is no
statute of limitations on his predictions, we'll just have to wait
and see about the others.
then a senior vice president of Travelocity and now its president,
said, "The fundamental question is: What are we doing as an
industry to our pricing practices?" She was referring to the
rampant discounting, abetted by the Internet, that resulted from
the sharp downturn in travel. At the time, many people, myself
included, wondered if this change was indeed
As it turns out, to
our collective relief, what we were observing was fundamental in a
different sort of way. The low prices turned out primarily to
reflect the most basic law of supply and demand. Demand was so soft
that marketing managers sought to find, in the words of
then-Princess Cruises President Phillip Kleweno, "the intersection
of greed and fear."
Hal Rosenbluth was
perhaps seeing clearly when he said, "We all intuitively knew on
that day that the world as we knew it had just changed."
With four years'
perspective, it's easier to understand that the ways in which the
world has changed have less to do with travel sales than with the
way we think about the world, our lives, our friends and our
happened five years ago gives us perspective on what's truly
important in the grand scheme of things. Unfortunately, what seems
to have changed most profoundly is the belief that those truly
important things will never be as safe and secure as they felt
read the original report from 2002, see Travel execs see industry at a