Ripples

The experts will be identifying ripple effects of Hurricane Katrina for months, if not years.

The ripples will reach from the homeless in New Orleans, to jobless croupiers in Gulf Coast casinos, to anxious farmers in the Midwest, to motorists in New England, to politicians in Washington, to insurance actuaries in London, and on and on.

Somewhere the ripples will stop, or become so small that we will lose the ability or the need to measure them.

In the meantime, it would be worth remembering that not everything that happens after Katrina will happen because of Katrina.

In the coming weeks or months, for example, some airlines may be pushed into the past tense by merger or bankruptcy. Katrina may rightly take part of the blame, but it bears repeating that some airlines were flirting with oblivion long before the hurricane season began.

Likewise, forecasters were expecting strong upward pressure on natural gas and other energy prices this winter, even before the storm. 

In short, some unpleasant things will happen in the travel business and throughout the U.S. economy in the months ahead, but some of them were going to happen anyway, Katrina or not.

We hope our policymakers resist the temptation to blame Katrina for everything bad that happens for the next year. Blaming Katrina may open doors, wallets, hearts and minds, but it could also blind us to the reality of what needs to be done, and why.

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One obvious effect of this hurricane was to focus attention on homeland security and what that term really means.  Since its creation, the Department of Homeland Security has been been trying to manage a broad portfolio of federal responsibilities. Understandably, security from terrorism has been at the top of the agenda.

But it is clear now that if the city of New Orleans and the port of New Orleans are going to remain where they are, this nation cannot afford for its flood control and emergency management systems to be anything other than state-of-the-art. Because of what is at stake, they have to be the best. The best in the world.



Relief

Travel and tourism is the quintessential global industry. Our people, our companies and our customers are everywhere.

And when disaster strikes, travel and tourism are almost always affected, sometimes indirectly, sometimes slightly, but often abruptly, harshly and painfully.

There are few highs in this game that match the intensity of the lows. Can you think of a single event in travel that had a positive impact as dramatic and immediate as the 9/11 attacks, SARS, the Asian tsunami, Katrina?

Perhaps its simply the human condition or the nature of the universe that our good fortune tends to come in small doses. This seems to magnify the shock when we hit a wall, and it magnifies the outpouring of sympathy and generosity that follows.

Airlines, cruise lines, hotels, car rental companies, motorcoach operators, tour operators, travel sellers, travel technology firms, travel industry associations and other travel-related businesses are making various contributions to the the hurricane relief effort. These contributions are too numerous to mention here, but readers can get a sense of the scope of the effort by logging on to www.travelweekly.com or www.travelcompaniescare.org.

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