Local Heroes

Kenneth Shapiro The international travel industry faced yet another challenge this month with the combination of terrorist bombings in London followed by Hurricane Emily in the Caribbean. Yet, as I write this, all reports indicate that both events were handled with competent professionalism in every segme

By: Kenneth Shapiro

The international travel industry faced yet another challenge this month with the combination of terrorist bombings in London followed by Hurricane Emily in the Caribbean. Yet, as I write this, all reports indicate that both events were handled with competent professionalism in every segment of the industry. Hotel workers became frontline disaster-relief workers; agents and tour operators swung into action and came to the aid of clients; and visitors’ bureaus bombarded the public with a unified message that travel need not must not stop because of these localized tragedies.

Instead of gloomy predictions on how these events would ultimately hurt travel, the news this month was full of success stories about the industry’s response to the challenge. I read an account of workers in London’s Hilton Metropole, which was close to the scene of one of the bombings, transforming the hotel’s lobby into a triage area for victims right after the blast even as some of their own staff was injured. I spoke to Ana Portas, of the Cancun Hotel Association, who told me how proud she was of the teamwork her colleagues showed in putting into effect the resort’s hurricane contingency plan, helping to assure the safety of that city’s 50,000-plus tourists.

Such stories are an indication of the quality of character of our industry as a whole, and it made me proud to be a part of it. In the coming weeks and months, TravelAge West will take a look at some of the ways the travel industry and travel agents in particular can address the uncertainty of our business, but it’s satisfying for now to note that the hard lessons of the past appear to have made us stronger for the struggle.

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