After almost every punch line, a googly-eyed, sweating Rodney Dangerfield would tug at his tie and utter his famous line, “Awww, I don’t get no respect.”
Seems to me the entire travel and tourism industry could do the same thing. Tourism is a trade that encompasses so many different business sectors but has no single defining industry designation, and therefore, has no real way of demonstrating its value to the greater community.
Check the Dictionary of Occupational Titles (DOT) and you’ll find listings for Air Transportation; Aircraft-Aerospace Manufacturing; Amusement and Recreation; Fishing, Hunting, and Trapping; Food Preparations and Food Specialties; Hotel and Restaurant; Museums, Art Galleries, and Botanical and Zoological Gardens; and the Railroad Transportation Industries – all listed as separate sectors. And that list doesn’t even include limousines, cruise lines, sporting events, nor all of tourism’s supporting industries such as Legal, Accounting, HR, Real Estate, Retail, etc., etc., etc. Yet every one of those businesses owes some or all of its success to tourism.
Funny how things change in times of trouble, though. Now that BP is dolling out money to companies whose businesses have suffered due to the Deepwater Horizon disaster, it seems every business that might have ever received a dollar from a tourist’s wallet has its hand out for relief. Watching the evening news the other day, I saw a gas station owner from Palatka complaining that BP owed him money because tourists have stopped driving down to Florida. Even the Brass Monkey Lounge in Marathon filed a lawsuit against BP for diminished business.
As Judy Sorenson, owner of the bar, said in The Miami Herald, “It‘s still beautiful here, but people aren’t coming because they think the oil is here, even though it isn’t here. That’s killing the Keys.”
Maybe so, Judy; but it ain’t killing bars. The last thing people in the Keys are going to give up is booze. In fact, I’d bet that the worse the situation gets, the more they’ll drink.
Regardless of the economic realities, our tourism industry will keep stoking the economy – providing jobs, generating taxes and showing people the best parts of the United States, all without getting the respect it deserves. It’s so bad that even Rodney Dangerfield used to diss our industry: “Boy, what a hotel that was, why they stole MY towel! Then I asked the bellhop to handle my bag and he fondled my wife.”
I’m tellin’ you, we don’t get no respect.
The Alabama Post Register followed my blog posts on the oil disaster and Gulf Coast tourism. For original article, click here.
Since the tragic BP oil spill began, I’ve been inundated with requests from experts and regular folks alike who want to know how much money various Gulf Coast communities will have to spend to repair their tourism industries.
Paradoxically, I believe the question is not how much should be spent, but what happens if we don’t spend?
Traditionally, the knee-jerk response of large organizations such as the federal government and BP is to throw big money at big problems. So figuring out how much to spend might be as irrelevant as it is incalculable. Instead, let’s look at the reasons why this money has to be spent.
The tourism industry has done such a bad job of promoting its business benefits that most people do not understand the impact of tourism.
But new data from the Travel Industry Association reaffirm travel as a critical engine of the American economy. For instance:
Remember, though, that travelers spend money on more than just hotels and attractions. They are directly responsible for enormous purchases of entertainment, retail, real estate, professional services and most every other industry’s products.
Because there is no one number that covers the impact of tourism, no one really knows the value of the industry’s true impact on the economy.
Besides the immediate purchasing power of tourism, the industry also has an enormous influence on a community’s business growth. Most forward-thinking cities and regions have their own economic development offices charged with bringing new business, investment and, ultimately, jobs to their communities.
Talk to the people charged with attracting business to their area, and they’ll tell you that tourism is the front door of economic development. After all, people don’t move their businesses to a community they haven’t visited.
But perhaps most vital, tourism helps create our positive views of people and countries in faraway places. Tourism also helps people who visit us go home with improved visions of America and Americans.
According to a 2006 survey by RT Strategies, people who have visited the U.S. are 74 percent more likely to have a favorable opinion of our country. Or, as Mark Twain wrote more than 140 years ago in “Innocents Abroad,” “Travel is fatal to prejudice, bigotry and narrow-mindedness, and many of our people need it sorely on these accounts alone. Broad, wholesome, charitable views of men and things cannot be acquired by vegetating in one little corner of the earth all one’s lifetime.”
Think about the cost of peace of mind. How much was that feeling worth on Sept. 10, 2001, the day before 9/11? How much would you pay to get it back now? Translated into today’s terms, what was the value of an unsoiled coast before BP’s deepwater pipe began spewing thousands of barrels of poison into the Gulf? Unfortunately, the amount can’t be truly calculated.
The rescue of the tourism industries in the Gulf states will be a long haul and will mirror the cleaning efforts currently underway from Louisiana’s marshlands to Florida’s beaches. There is no quick fix, so Gulf communities must begin now to save and ultimately rebuild their economically critical tourism sectors.
Bruce Turkel is CEO of TURKEL, a brand management firm. His e-mail is firstname.lastname@example.org.