MEDIA WATCH: Terrorist attacks create ripple effect throughouttourism industry

One of the major stories that unraveled last month was news that

the airline industry is in dire straits. But they are not the only ones.

The terrorist attacks on the US have impacted a number of related

industries as well - notably the nation's tourism and leisure industry,

which reportedly brings in $582 billion annually (Los Angeles

Times, September 18).



Across the country, there were grim reports that the temporary grounding

of airlines and the subsequent fear of air travel is creating a massive

domino effect that is taking its toll on hotels, conventions,

restaurants, theme parks, cruise ships, travel agencies, and

casinos.



Hotels earned the most attention, and were described by some as having

the appearance of a ghost town. Although normally booked at 75% to 100%

capacity during the fall season, hotels were reported to have fallen to

just 20% to 30% full in a number of major metropolitan cities. A hotel

consultant from PKF Consulting assessed, "(Hotels) are going to get

hammered to death. The next three months - the only way to describe them

- are going to be bloody" (Houston Chronicle, September 18).



In New Orleans, a hotel executive explained, "Our market is 80%

tour-group driven, and 99% of the group businesses fly in. So the first

step for our customers is usually getting on a plane, and if they're not

flying for whatever reason, our bookings are adversely affected" (Times

Picayune, September 18).



Many reports noted that the pain of the hotel industry would be felt

harshly since the economy had been slowing even before the attacks. The

Sacramento Bee (September 16) noted, "Even before the terrorist attacks,

PKF was projecting a 3.5% decline in hotel revenue this year, the worst

in 40 years."



Hotels were further impacted by the cancellation of conventions across

the country. Coverage also noted that even for those conventions that

didn't cancel, there was no guarantee that attendance would be as high

as in previous years.



Several articles reported on the efforts made by the tourism industries

to keep attendance levels up in light of the attacks. The most

frequently discussed measure was to target nearby customers who would be

able to drive to their destinations rather than fly. Newspapers in

Florida reported that the state was seriously considering a push to "get

Floridians to visit Florida" (The Orlando Sentinel, September 18).



The prognosis for the tourism industry over the next three months is

awful, but coverage could not say what it would be like in the longer

term. The media reported a consensus among hotel and tourism industry

executives that they have never encountered anything like this

before.



The complete drop-off in tourist-related activity was said to be

unprecedented. A few analysts compared the Gulf War with the present

situation, though this time the attacks occurred on US soil.



While the situation feels bleak, the only silver lining was occasional

reports that bargains would soon spring up that might tempt Americans to

travel, or predictions that Americans would travel out of defiance and

patriotism. But these reports appeared infrequently, suggesting that the

tourism industry is in for a very rough ride.



- Evaluation and analysis by CARMA International. Media Watch can be

found at www.carma.com.



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