Tom Jenkins is the executive director of the European Tour
Operators Association, a lobbying group representing wholesalers
bringing passengers into Europe. Editor in chief Arnie Weissmann
sat down with him at last week's World Travel Market in London to
get his perspective on terrorism, intra-Europe squabbles and the
future of travel on the other side of the Atlantic.
Q: Europe's share of world tourism has been
declining. Will the decline continue?
A: A pessimist would say it's inevitable, that
foreign competition has simply strengthened and that we'll never
cure our inherent regional factionalism -- Portugal regards Spain
as its No. 1 competitor, France dislikes the idea of anyone
visiting Britain and Britain thinks it can mount campaigns in
But if we have learned anything in the last three years, it's
that Europe becomes a unitary destination when people decide to
stay away. One of Europe's great strengths is its diversity.
National tourism offices will work together in the future because
they have to. It's the only way to move forward.
Q: The dollar's weak and the euro's strong. Any
possibility for recovery this year?
A: At the same time the euro rose 17% against
the dollar, the peso dropped 20%. That is not good news. And
because of the euro's strength against the dollar, the U.S. also is
looking attractive to the Japanese, so it's a triple whammy for
On the other hand, a lot of Americans have delayed a trip to
Europe for a long time, putting it off year after year. This is the
year they'll go. We'll still see an increase of about 15%. But it
should be much stronger, considering that we dropped 30% since
Q: Do you think Americans have conquered their
fears of terrorism?
A: People have, to some extent, gotten used to
the threat of terrorism. But the way the authorities have been
handling security means the terrorists have won. When you see
knitting needles being confiscated from a New Zealand grandmother
in the war against al Qaeda, you know they've got it wrong.
This isn't a civilized society protecting itself, it's a society
degrading its citizens in an uncivilized manner.
Q: Virtually every large U.S. tour operator
belongs to your association. Far & Wide was among them. Has its
bankruptcy affected your organization?
A: Seeing that happen is very shy-making; one
gets bashful. But while we're very supportive of what members do,
we're careful not to endorse the quality of their products or the
probity of their dealings. And we do not have a bond program.
Q: Over the past few years, what has been your
A: That so many negative perceptions have been
misperceptions. The fact is, Europe is an extremely safe
destination. Air is a uniquely safe way to travel. Travel is of
such enormous importance -- to not do it denigrates our lives and
damages our economy. There's much to be done.
To contact Editor-in-Chief Arnie Weissmann, send e-mail to