The travel industry -- and the nation -- was diminished last month
by the loss of two major figures, Curtis Carlson and William
Toohey. Despite singular accomplishments that were widely
recognized by the trade, both were largely unknown to an American
public nonetheless enriched by their contributions.
Carlson, who died at 84 on Feb. 19, was the embodiment of a
Horatio Alger hero.
The son of hardworking Swedish immigrants, he parlayed guts,
brains and vision into an empire that at the time of his death
encompassed 147,000 employees worldwide, reported $7.8 billion in
annual revenues and was worth another $14.2 billion in annual
revenues to franchisees and licensees.
With momentous business decisions these days increasingly
hinging on the whims of focus groups and "team-think" strategists,
Carlson's brand of entrepreneurial enterprise will be sorely
Toohey, who died on Feb. 8 at 72, made significant contributions
to the domestic side of the industry during his long tenure at the
Travel Industry Association and its predecessor organizations.
We owe to him the U.S. Travel Data Center, the annual TIA Pow
Wow, the Travel and Tourism Government Affairs Council -- the
industry's lobbying group -- and National Tourism Week.
As the head of TIA, he worked quietly to foster a greater
understanding of the industry within the halls of government. He
frequently was in the news, but he did not seek the spotlight, and
his shyness and modesty left many thinking he was a bit aloof.
Often, we take for granted our most successful institutions,
with barely a thought about their origins. We should not, however,
forget people like Curtis Carlson and William Toohey, who developed