Hotel Online  Special Report



Six Tenets of Change the Travel Industry Must Consider
to Help Ensure a Bright Future / 
AAA President Robert L. Darbelnet
AUSTIN, Texas - Oct. 21, 2003 -- To successfully combat the many challenges faced by today's travel industry, AAA President and CEO Robert L. Darbelnet offered six tenets of change the industry can and must consider to help ensure a bright future.

In his keynote address to more than 500 delegates at the Travel Industry Association's 2003 Marketing Outlook Forum here, Darbelnet said that most of the challenges come in the form of permanent changes to the travel business.

"Travelers' habits have changed and I don't think we will see a return to their behaviors of the past," he said. "We might as well get used to the price-sensitive, more knowledgeable shopper who is looking for a short vacation, and is comfortable booking close to the departure date."

Darbelnet said that anybody who thinks he can "hunker down and wait these changes out is in for a rude awakening." He said the following changes should be on the travel industry's to do list:

  1. Stop complaining. Despite the turbulence since 9/11, this is not the first time the industry has been confronted with disruptive events. Best of all, the travel business still has a lot of upside.
  2. Advertise. Figure out how to effectively fund the effort to promote this country to foreign tourists. "Foreign countries that compete with us for tourists are spending millions on coordinated advertising - and, it is working," Darbelnet pointed out. "As our market share of inbound travel declines, other tourist destinations are seeing their business increase."
  3. Get out of the tax collector role. There is no doubt that travelers are a "plump target for tolls and a minimal threat at the polls," Darbelnet added, but "we have enough challenges without becoming the taxman's pipeline to the traveler's wallet."
  4. Ensure that travelers get value, for that will be a direct catalyst for the consumer's decision to start planning another vacation.
  5. Recognize the diverse segments of the market and tailor your offerings. "The marketplace is changing and the needs and preferences of travelers will change too," Darbelnet said. "Those who fail to see these changes coming are destined to lose out to those who do."
  6. Collaborate to effectively connect all the segments of the industry because a successful trip generally requires that multiple products and different modes of transportation interface smoothly.
"We all have a vested interest in making sure that the traveler's experience is positive," Darbelnet said. "The efficiency with which we assemble the components of a consumer's vacation affects the ease with which travel is promoted, bought and experienced."

The three-day Marketing Outlook Forum (Oct. 20-22) is the premier national conference for the U.S. travel and tourism industry and is being held at the Renaissance Austin Hotel.

As North America's largest motoring and leisure travel organization, AAA provides more than 46 million members with travel, insurance, financial and automotive-related services. Since its founding in 1902, the not-for-profit, fully tax-paying AAA has been a leader and advocate for the safety and security of all travelers.

Orlando, Fla.
Jerry Cheske
Also See: U.S. Travel Update; Impact of War on Industry / TIA / April 2003

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