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Wednesday, May 19, 2010

Volcanoes and Oil Spills and Boycotts, Oh My

Apologies for the extended absence from posting, especially in light of all the news stories wreaking havoc on the travel industry. Take the volcano and the euro and the oil spill....please.
Add in nasty political machinations in Thailand and Arizona, and the hot mess that is Greece, and it might all seem to add up to a big "Don't Go."

But it doesn't. Travelers will go. And as many economies will suffer from the bad news, some will benefit. To wit, that blasted Icelandic volcano is proving a godsend to, well, Iceland. Southern European countries well out of the way of its emanations may end up winning over visitors who might otherwise have headed to Ireland, Germany or other northern'ish countries in the eurozone. Speaking of which, the shrinking euro means bargains for Americans who do venture forth to the 16 nations contained within that economic union. So, despite the volcano, there might be some hope for the Continent this summer after all.

While we are across the pond, we must not neglect the tragedy that is Greece. With the Grecian economy in ruins, the tourism industry there is in a hellish situation. Tourism is the major source of foreign exchange for Greece, but visitors are cancelling right and left. However, between the declining euro and the slashing of bed prices in the cradle of democracy, Greece is offering some Olympian deals this summer for bargain bottom feeders.

Meanwhile, back in the US of A, politics and BP are muddying the waters for several state tourism industries. While Arizona is not exactly a hot spot for summer tourism due to the fact that it is, well, a hot spot, the developing boycott will have both short and long-term repercussions. Tourism is one of the state's top industries, as visitor spending accounts for $18.5 billion in income and hundreds of thousands of jobs. But as tourists trade planned visits to the Grand Canyon for visits to grand national parks in California or Utah, and as meeting planners cancel conventions slated for the Grand Canyon State in 2010 and beyond, an already fragile Arizona economy may soon be heading over the borderline. Meanwhile, cities with convention facilities of a similar size are hoping that Arizona's cancelled meetings business may migrate to them.

As for the tourism industries along the Gulf shores of Louisiana, Mississippi, Alabama, and Florida, fear is spreading through the air as the oil slick proliferates. After all, who wants to visit white sand beaches covered in gunk? The Gulf states are already complaining that East Coast communities are trying to take advantage of the disaster by poaching the sea and sand trade. But the fact is, due to the possibility that a loop current could carry the oil around the tip of Florida to the Atlantic coast, even those places south of the Mid-Atlantic are not out of the danger zone. Then what's the situation? Jersey Shore, anyone?

Finally, Thailand. What a mess. You might think that, since the action is centered in Bangkok, other parts of the country might still be okay for tourism. But the problem is, the country's main international airport is in Bangkok, and said airport has already been under siege this year. For those planning a visit to Southeast Asia this summer, Vietnam, ironically, might be a much more peaceful bet.

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