KISSIMMEE, Fla. -- Despite a steady recovery since Sept. 11,
Florida's travel industry continues to face tough obstacles,
according to Barry Pitegoff, vice president of research for Visit
During the 35th Annual Governor's Conference on Tourism here, he
cited some of the obvious hurdles, such as fear of flying;
reluctance to drive long distances; and a downturn in foreign
visitors, especially in arrivals from Canada during south Florida's
peak winter season.
However, two less obvious factors could have long-term effects
on domestic travel, he said.
The first is consumers' concern over rudeness in general, making
travel less inviting.
Recent surveys show that most people believe that rudeness and
disrespect are now a serious problem in the U.S., he said.
Indeed, almost half of those surveyed reported that in the last
year they had walked out of a retail establishment because of
Rising levels of discourtesy also threaten the repeat business
that many destinations have enjoyed, he said.
Travel also could be impacted negatively by the growth of what
Pitegoff called "generica," or the commercial homogenization of the
landscape from look-alike malls and sights.
"The strategic marketing implication is that if everyplace looks
the same, why go anywhere?" Pitegoff said.
As for terrorism and economy-related challenges, Pitegoff said
that a national phone survey sponsored by Visit Florida revealed
that nearly 60% had no qualms about flying to a vacation
Of the 40% of those who feared flying, about one-quarter said
that they were not ready to fly within the next two months.
However, many in that group said that they might reconsider if they
were offered a good deal.
Travelers also have been turned off by press reports about
delays in implementing a new security regime in the nation's
airports, he said.
Pitegoff noted that while Florida has benefited from travelers
who switched from plane trips to car trips, there is a limit to
that benefit, since travelers now are reluctant to drive more than
six to eight hours.
Recovery for Florida's travel industry in general also is
burdened by a sharp drop in overseas and Canadian visits, Pitegoff
He noted, for example, that the Conference Board of Canada in
July forecast that the winter of 2002-03 will see the lowest share
of Canadians traveling to the U.S. in 11 years, because of the
weakness of the Canadian dollar.
Visitors from Latin America and Europe also are "currently less
interested in traveling to the U.S." Pitegoff said, "although
travel to Florida remains a relatively appealing option."