It was big news when the Discover America Partnership released data a year ago showing that international visitors feared U.S. immigration officers more than they feared terrorists.

Now it turns out there's a parallel sentiment within America -- even within the travel industry -- that sees American policy as ineffective in the war on terror and, in an even blunter analysis, as a threat to national security in its own right.

Industry leaders attending Travel Weekly's Las Vegas Leadership Forum in July were offered an opportunity to voice their opinions on certain U.S. policies in an ongoing research project called the Terrorism Index.

The Index first appeared in Foreign Policy magazine in June 2006 as a "comprehensive, nonpartisan effort to mine the highest echelons of the nation's foreign-policy establishment for its assessment of how the United States is fighting the global war on terror."

In that initial iteration, participants included officials who had served as secretary of state or national security adviser, senior White House aides and top U.S. intelligence officers, academics and journalists.

The author, Marvin Cetron, is a futurist and president of Forecasting International. He has consulted for presidents Kennedy through Clinton as well as 400 of the Fortune 500 companies. Last December, he wrote a two-part cover story for Travel Weekly focusing on five predictions for the future of travel.

Since 2006, the Terrorism Index has been updated every six months, and last summer, Cetron offered to include a segment of Travel Weekly's readership in his poll. In particular, he was interested in participants from the hospitality sector, the part of the industry he believes is most vulnerable to terrorism.

So, in addition to the Army War College and the World Future Society (an association of professional forecasters), attendees of the Travel Weekly Las Vegas Leadership Forum, attended primarily by hoteliers, filled out Cetron's survey.

Though the questions are, by definition, future-focused and without present day right-or-wrong answers, respondents seemed to have a premonition that Pakistan was the least stable country in the nuclear club: It was cited most often as being "likely to transfer nuclear technology to terrorists in the next three to five years," ahead of Iran and Russia.

That was Question 10. The biggest surprise -- for me, at any rate -- were the responses to Question 11: Which country has the most dangerous government in the world today?

The No. 1 and No. 2 rankings were somewhat predictable: Iran and North Korea. But in third place -- ahead of Sudan, Pakistan, Saudi Arabia and China -- was the U.S. And, strikingly, respondents from the Army War College ranked it second.

The distrust of the U.S. government's ability to fight terror was made amply clear.

Eighty-three percent of all respondents felt the world was becoming more dangerous for Americans.

Eighty-eight percent disagreed with the statement, "The U.S. is winning the war on terror."

Hezbollah, al-Qaida and the Taliban were all seen as stronger than they had been a year earlier.

But my biggest surprise came in responses to the question "In your view, what is the single greatest threat to the U.S. national security?" Even with all of the indicators above, I did not expect that more people would choose "Bush policies" than any other option, including al-Qaida, terrorism, the Iraq war and nuclear weapons. (As a group, the travel industry believed this more strongly than the other participants, though they were least likely, by far, to characterize the U.S. as a "dangerous" government.)

Those surveyed, incidentally, leaned a bit more to the right than to the left; about half described themselves as politically moderate, with the remainder twice as likely to describe themselves as conservative (33%) than as liberal (16%).

The reason Cetron was keen to involve Travel Weekly in his most recent survey, and the reason Travel Weekly was keen to participate, is that we share a concern that the hospitality industry is particularly vulnerable to attack. Cetron's belief that hotels are at risk as a "soft target" has great credence since such attacks have already occurred in Malaysia, Egypt and Jordan.

While inbound travelers from other countries may have concerns about U.S. policies, the lure of the weak dollar has been a strong motivator for them to run the gantlet of Homeland Security personnel to enter Fortress America this past summer.

Yet we who live in the U.S. find little consolation in our beaten-down currency, have little confidence in our current foreign policy and worry that, just around the corner, there are significant consequences for our industry and country if we simply stay the course.


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