Usually I have a pretty decent insight into the industry and the world around me. I can usually pick out a signal when a big change is afoot with a supplier. I can look at reports and figure out what will be a “hot” destination for my agency. I can usually predict what impact on travel a poor (or rebounding) economy may have. SARS… Avian Flu… Mad Cow Disease… war… political unrest across the globe… I have been pretty good about managing the expectations for both my agency and my clients. Right now, I just don’t know.
I try to steer clear of politics in most aspects of my life and writing. There is typically very little to be gained by engaging friends in a back-and-forth in an attempt to sway an opinion. And with the election of Donald Trump to President of the United States, it is becoming more and more difficult. Two months ago, I wrote about changes that might come as a result of the election, but I am not sure I ever envisioned where we stand now.
Two of the Executive Orders the President has signed have the potential to cause very serious harm to travel agents, and we need to be sure we are following developments and working with our advocacy groups like ASTA, as well as our consortia and host agencies to lobby on our behalf and to make sure that the lawmakers in DC and the President know how these actions will impact our industry.
There is a wall to be built on the southern border of the US to mitigate illegal immigration from Mexico into the US. On the surface, it might be argued that the wall may be a viable solution. However, the funding of the wall (at this point) appears to be destined to come from a 20% tariff imposed on Mexican manufacturing and production. Obviously this has infuriated our neighbors to the south and will cause an increase in prices on goods to the US. Think about what we might use from Mexico during a typical week—tequila, beer, avocados, etc. But what about our autos that are assembled here in the US with some Mexican parts? The ramifications are far reaching. Will Mexico come up with a “tourist tax” for US citizens to help offset the tariff? Will the prices of goods purchased by Americans now be subject to a VAT-esque tax? These are all questions with no solid answers at this point. Questions that demand our attention as this plays out. Remember, Mexico is likely the largest destination for most agencies today!
The other immediate threat to our industry is this weekend’s ban on travelers from specific countries, which happen to be primarily Muslim. I think we all can get behind preventing terrorism in the US and across the globe, but is this the way? Within hours, lawsuits were files and protests were organized at airports. Iran vowed vague retaliation. Many non-Muslim (yet tolerant) countries expressed displeasure at the move. Will Americans now be targeted while traveling abroad to these Muslim countries or those that are tolerant? From an operational aspect, if these protests continue, how will they affect our clients transiting the international airports? Will they escalate?
We are living in a period that (and I am not sure I am going out too far on a limb here) is unprecedented in our lifetimes. This is truly uncharted water. These are waters that need to be monitored. Moaning on Facebook will not solve anything other than to have me un-follow you. Be informed. And be engaged. Take the time to contact your industry associations this week to see what plans they have. Offer to provide any insight you may feel is relevant. If there ever was a time to pay attention in class—this is it.