here's still too much bad news in the world, but there's enough good news, and enough good economic news, to allow the travel industry's spring season to live up to its name.

The financial press was full of reports last week that employment and retail sales are rebounding strongly, and our news pages report today that key segments of the travel industry are benefitting from the general trend.

And as Amelia International founder Dawn Bosco points out, it is an especially good sign that travelers are once again booking ahead, making reservations now for autumn travel rather than waiting until "the last minute." That could be a sign that travelers are finally losing the "jitters," or whatever it is that has been keeping them close to their couches.

It should not be overlooked that this return of consumer confidence is being matched by a renewed sense of optimism within the travel industry itself, as evidenced by a raft of new initiatives.

Airlines are opening new routes in numerous foreign and domestic markets. Hotel companies are investing in new niches and launching new brands. Tour operators are rolling out new itineraries, and the recent history of the cruise industry is a never-ending story of new ports and new ships. The big online travel sellers are investing in overseas operations, and big corporate agencies are investing in their futures with an acquisition binge of historical proportions.

It is a testament to the appeal of leisure travel and the importance of business travel that this resurgence in consumer and industry confidence is happening against the backdrop of a weak dollar, high energy prices, a conflict of uncertain proportions in Iraq and the certain knowledge that terrorism hasn't gone away. That sort of bad news would ordinarily serve as a deterrent to travel, but this spring we seem to be rebounding in spite of it.

Perhaps the travel industry has reached the next rung of an evolutionary ladder, a rung from which the industry can flourish and prosper in what, in happier times, would have been deemed "sub-optimal" conditions.

Is it too soon to say we have adapted?

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April Fooled

t is a measure of how wacky airline marketing has become that the normally astute editors of this publication were taken in by an April Fool's "news" story that Virgin Atlantic Airways had hired a cadre of inflight hypnotherapists. It had done no such thing.

We fell for the airline's gag because inflight hypnotherapy is precisely the sort of off-beat innovation that we have come to expect from Virgin Atlantic. In an era when it's hard to know what's "over the top" and what isn't, this joke was just a bit too believable.

We apologize to our readers for letting our guard down, and we also thank our friends at Virgin Atlantic for giving us this opportunity to recalibrate our balderdash detectors.

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