Observing NCL America's downsizing in
Hawaii, it strikes us that having an American-crewed vessel should
not be the punishment that it has turned out to be.
When Hawaii's Sen.
Daniel Inouye engineered the exemption that allowed NCL into this
market in 2003, we said we would have preferred a broader
relaxation of U.S. maritime regulations to create opportunities for
all cruise lines at all U.S. ports.
We continue to
believe that a broad review of the rules about U.S.-flag cruising
is in order.
For example, U.S.
ships must be built in the U.S. and must be staffed with a crew of
U.S. citizens, which is precisely why there is virtually no U.S.
passenger fleet and no U.S. labor pool. This rule benefits no
If it takes a mix
of American- and foreign-built ships and American and foreign
waiters and American and foreign cabin stewards to make cruising
work in Hawaii or in other domestic markets, then that's what the
government should allow.
night, after night ...
it a coincidence that the Web's fascination with user- generated
content has coincided with the rise of reality TV and the "American
We don't think so.
We can't seem to lay our hands on our sociology credentials at the
moment, so you'll just have to trust us on this, but we think these
trends have common roots. Our evil twin might call it something
like "consumers drunk on empowerment" or "amateurs gone wild."
We'll be more discreet and call it a hyper-drive for fulfillment,
perhaps with a dash of the baby boomers' legendary distrust of
authority and "experts."
Whatever it is, it
has infected thousands of people, inducing them to sing
ridiculously on network TV; to pontificate about books, movies,
hotels and travel experiences on various Web sites; to lose tens of
thousands of dollars on camera by publicly botching home
renovations; to chronicle the most trivial aspects of their lives
in the blogosphere.
On eBay, anybody
can be an entrepreneur. In Wikipedia, anybody can be an expert. On
YouTube, anybody can be a video editor.
When every aspect
of our mass culture, from Home Depot to the Food Network, is
pounding home the message that "you can do this," it's tough to be
an expert service provider such as a travel agent, stock broker or
realtor. Who's next, accountants?
In a few years,
will there be a book on the best-seller list by a noted social
commentator called "The Death of Expertise?"
We would not be
Earth Day is coming up on April 22, which
gives us an opportunity to reflect on the travel industry's
environmental record and, what may be even more important, the
public's perception of it.
On this score, we
have some bad news. According to a recent survey sponsored by
Orbitz, about half of the American traveling public believes the
U.S. tourism industry is not environmentally friendly.
Even if they're
wrong, the travel industry could still have a serious PR problem to
deal with. It's simply bad for business if half your market thinks
you're hurting the planet.