We owe some belated praise to several travel industry entities for recently displaying signs of higher intelligence.

First off, kudos to Universal Studios for its clever new TV ads urging viewers to get serious about taking their vacations. In one version of the TV spot, a man claiming to represent the pharmaceutical industry thanks hard-working Americans for working themselves to death, creating a windfall for the drug companies because of the rise of stress-induced illness and depression.

Its not immediately obvious that the ad is a message from a travel company but when the message comes through, we think it does so loud and clear: Vacations are good for you.

As an official at Universals ad agency put it, Its a highly motivating premise to remind consumers that skipping their vacation usually benefits all the wrong people.

Hats off to America West, also, for deciding to be a bit more selective about matching its competitors rock-bottom fares during periods of high demand, a new policy described in our news pages a week ago.

Theres an old gag among airline-pricing people that youre always at the mercy of your dumbest competitor, a gag that begs the question: If you match your dumbest competitor, what does that say about you?

And we also owe a salute to Sheraton for its ventures into fuel-cell technology to provide power for a handful of its hotels. Fuel cells alone, of course, wont save the earth, but neither will business as usual.

Travel is an energy-intensive business. Its not always as kind to the environment as it could be and our travelers often leave more than footprints. Most responsible travel companies are aware of these problems and take steps to mitigate them. But its nice to see Sheraton taking an extra step.

Kudos to all.



The bun channel

Ill have a hot dog, please, with ketchup and a little onion.

Got it. Thatll be two bucks, plus the $2.50 bun fee.

The what?

Its $4.50 all together -- $2 for the hot dog plus the $2.50 bun fee.

Youre charging me $2.50 for the bun?

No, the buns included with the dog, but I need to charge a bun fee because of the high cost of stocking so many different kinds of buns. In the dog business, we call it the bun channel. Its proliferating.

I just wanted a regular bun.

Right, but I gotta stock regular and foot-long, plus you got plain, sesame, potato and low-carb in each size. Thats eight kinds of buns. Like I said, its proliferating -- heres yer dog, man. You want a drink with that?

Whaddya got?

Coke, Diet Coke, Caffeine Free Coke, Caffeine Free Diet Coke, Cherry Coke...

Never mind.

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