We have no doubt that the people and businesses in Floridas travel and tourism industry will recover and rebuild, as they have recovered many times before. As battered as it gets from time to time, Florida will remain one of this countrys premier destinations for leisure travel, and rightly so.

The big question is when? What travel sellers in the U.S. and overseas historically want to know in times like these is what works, whats open, whats back to normal and whats not quite ready for prime time.

 

Its hard enough to recover from the physical, emotional and economic effects of a natural disaster. It would be a shame for Florida or any recovering destination to incur further losses or lose ground because of misinformation and missed opportunities, particularly at a time when leisure travel in general has been on the rebound.

Bud Nocera, president and CEO of Visit Florida, said he expects the physical plant to be back to normal in a matter of days rather than weeks, and he doesnt expect a perception problem, either. The best thing the travel industry can do right now is to book visitors to Florida for fall and winter.

Floridas travel interests should be encouraged by his optimism. We hope consumers are, too.

Explaining those fees

People in the so-called GDS channel are understandably pleased that Northwest has backed off its shared GDS fee, but consumers who like to call carriers on the phone -- or visit them at airport counters -- arent so lucky. The major airlines are matching Northwests fees of $5 and $10 for call center and airport sales, respectively, so these fees will likely become standard. Some airlines already had fees for using whats left of their city ticket offices.

Whats coming together here is a tiered system of fees for consumers, designed to encourage use of airline Web sites and/or acclimate consumers to the idea of paying more to get more.

US Airways, for example, called it a service fee for customers who desire personalized reservations ticketing assistance.

Continental, likewise, said its fees relate to personalized and value-added service.

However, several airlines, including Continental, have continued to muddy the waters by dragging in the tired cliche about the distribution costs of low-cost carriers.

If the network airlines want to justify these fees as a necessary way of covering the cost of value-added service, thats fine. We would understand, and most consumers would understand. Pay more, get more.

But it seems to confuse the issue to tell consumers that they must pay more so the airline can keep up with its more efficient competitors.

Were not marketing geniuses around here, but that hardly seems to be the best message to be sending at this time.

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