For most of the world, the recent news that British Petroleum (BP) has, at least for the time being, capped the flow of oil from its Deepwater Horizon well blowout in the Gulf of Mexico, might have signaled that the end of the disaster is near. For those of us in the travel industry, however, the news means that our work is about to begin.
All of us have witnessed how a setback to a region’s tourism industry can have devastating consequences for years to come. Nowhere is this more true than along the Gulf Coast, where tourism can often be a town’s sole source of revenue. For many of these areas, this year’s tourism season is already a bust and, sadly, many small businesses will not survive the winter. Coupled with the current recession, the nation simply can’t afford to be slow in responding to the needs of the Gulf Coast tourism industry, or we will have a much bigger disaster on our hands.
Because of its importance, the travel industry needs to take the lead on pressuring the government to focus its resources on the Gulf Coast — regardless of how much this region affects our own everyday business. Just as officials made it an act of patriotism to assist New York City after Sept. 11, and major public and private assistance eventually flowed into New Orleans after Hurricane Katrina, so too should we be looking for ways that we can support the communities of the Gulf region.
With an upcoming election, I can only hope that this will become an issue with candidates. Regardless of what the politicians do, however, it is up to all of us within the industry to remind the rest of the world that the disaster is far from over and that the hard work of restoring normalcy to the Gulf Coast has just begun.