|Vice President—Content/Editorial Director, Ruthanne Terrero|
What an amazing week for travel. We've been treated to nonstop coverage of the Costa Concordia on its side off Giglio and it's a story that's still unfolding. It's the lead story on network news morning, noon and night and online and in print pundits are debating whether it's safe to cruise. Travel advisors are stepping up to the plate to give their opinion on the topic and to give sage advice about travel. I'm proud of all of them for representing our business so well.
Speaking of which, just this morning, Matthew Upchurch, CEO of Virtuoso, spoke on The Today Show on the merits of using a travel advisor, noting the similar benefits of using a financial advisor to manage your money. "Why not have someone manage your most precious commodity? Your time," said Upcurch.
Three cheers for Matthew, who is carrying the momentum of some very positive press for the travel advisor industry. Travel agents received a nice Christmas present at the end of 2011 when the Miami Herald spoke of their successes. The newspaper cited a study by Forrester Research that found the number of leisure travelers who enjoyed using the Internet to book travel fell from 53 percent in 2007 to 47 percent in 2010, as well as a survey by the American Society of Travel Agents (ASTA) that showed 44 percent of agents said they had more clients in 2010 than in 2009.
During our exclusive coverage of Luxury Travel Expo (now Luxury Travel Exchange International–launching this year!), Isaac Cymrot, director of sales and industry relations at Travel Insured, pointed to a rise in awareness of the need for travel insurance and agent expertise in the wake of the natural disasters and political unrest of 2011. Toward the end of that year, surveys by Travel Leaders, the United States Tour Operators Association and Travel-Ticker all pointed toward a more vibrant travel industry in 2012.
If all of this wasn't enough, there was President Obama at Walt Disney World Thursday afternoon, acknowledging the importance of travel and tourism to this country by announcing a national strategy on travel and tourism to boost travel to the United States. The new strategy works with the U.S. Travel Association’s Brand USA campaign to promote tourism to our national treasures.
The strategy also aims to reduce the hassle of traveling to the U.S. by charging the Departments of State and Homeland Security with slashing visa wait times from emerging markets China and Brazil, as well as expanding and making permanent the popular Global Entry program. I don't want to sound too jaded, but this has been a long time coming–so much so, I wasn't sure if I'd see such an act in my lifetime.
I congratulate and thank all of our colleagues who got us to the point where we are now, on the precipice of welcoming more people to this country by making it easy for them to get in. I am sure there are many good things to come from the President's actions today. I want to especially thank Roger Dow, president and CEO of the U.S. Travel Association, who seems to have an uncanny knack for getting nearly impossible things done.
How to summarize a week like this? Travel and tourism impact everyone's lives in this country, whether it's tragic or glorious events or even the mundane, such as the act of getting on an airplane.
What's key is we've all got to be at the ready to defend our industry, herald it when appropriate, and speak comfortingly and wisely to clients when things go madly awry for reasons out of our control.
Are you ready to be a part of this dialogue? If not, review how your colleagues handled themselves this week. You'll learn a lot.