How many times have you heard this one: "It was a good idea, but it didn't work." Alas, the history of good ideas is littered with expectations, but in recent weeks we've seen several good ideas that ought to work, that deserve to work, or that at least deserve some recognition for being tried.
Among the recent good ideas we've seen, we're particularly pleased about the decision by philanthropist H.F. Lenfest to donate $5.8 million to the SS United States Conservancy so it can purchase the great and greatly abused ocean liner and step up efforts to develop plans for turning it into a stationary attraction.
There have been other good ideas for the Big U over the years, but none of them worked, and we were getting worried that the world was running out of good ideas.
More relevant to the exigencies of the hour was a good idea from the U.S. Travel Association: a Web portal for travel-related information on the Gulf oil spill. It's up and running at www.gulftravelupdate.com, offering links to the tourism offices of the affected states and to other local and national sources of information. Travel people recognized early on that even beach resorts with no oil would likely suffer from negative perceptions -- and they have.
This kind of authoritative website is a good antidote for misinformation, and it would have been even better if it had been administered earlier. U.S. Travel should keep the formula handy for the next disaster.
The need for reliable information was also responsible for a good idea in Florida a few weeks ago, when the state's tourism promotion office, Visit Florida, added a page to its website called Florida Live and filled it with real-time webcams, Facebook links, Twitter feeds and photos uploaded by living, breathing tourists. The tag line says it all: "Real people, real time, real Florida."
Visit Florida tells us that the page at its peak averaged more than 16,000 visits a week, a number that is falling now that the ad budget is running low.
The whole world is on Facebook it seems, so it's not such a big deal these days to see yourself "on the Internet." Oddly, though, the old conventional media still have the power to make people sit up and take notice when they get their name "in the paper" or when they show up on local TV news. With that in mind, Travel Leaders is offering its member agents a training program focusing on how to give interviews to the press and how to deal with the news media in general. Agents who have taken the course say it's worth it on many levels.
And can you put a price on having a client perk up during the evening news, saying, "That's my travel agent!"
Our final example of a good idea is the SUGAR Volt. It sounds like a new high-energy soft drink, but it is actually Boeing's idea for a hybrid airliner powered by a combination of gas turbines and batteries that reduces fuel consumption by 70%. The design is one of a number of new concepts that engineers at Boeing and elsewhere are kicking around for later in the century.
The name is an acronym for Subsonic Ultra Green Aircraft Research, and we think that's a very good idea. The bad news is that it won't be ready until about 2035 or so, and given Boeing's record with Dreamliner delays, we think that betting on that date would be a bad idea.
This column appeared in the Aug. 16 issue of Travel Weekly.