We’ve come a long way…baby…

At the Airfest today We’ve come a long way …baby.  That is in tourism.  No conversation in tourism can escape the history and development of the industry.  It is one of the oldest industries in the world, and will survive even in the hardest times.

Fairey Gannet XT 752
Fairey Gannet XT 752
Fairey Gannet XT 752
Fairey Gannet XT 752

If you map out a historic timeline, especially innovations in transport, or the use of money & credit, lodging, and every other aspect of tourism,  these advances are mirrored with the advances of man and their need, want to travel. We as an industry have pushed for a host of technology to aid in the planning process.

What is the next big innovation?  What are we going to develop to take us to the next level?  Do we even have the innovators out there to see us to that level?  Everyone is so caught up in developing apps, and other platforms for mobile technologies that they fail to recognize or even acknowledge that travel is now becoming far more expensive for a host of people.  Expensive even in the basics, like maintaining your own car, putting gas in the tank, and utilizing the poor roads that crisscross this nation.  That a form of isolationism is creeping back into our society.  How many would rather stay at home now then face the roads, and the headaches it could cause?  Or even the airport with its congestion and delays?  Sure our backyard is full of wonders to explore, but like many, I want to travel further, farther than my current zip code.

My wander bug crickets loudly and is becoming more pronounced.  Yet, I am strapped for cash due to other responsibilities.  That vision of traveling every three years to Scotland is in the past, and must be re-evaluated.  I may not be the only one with such ambitions, but reality takes a chunk of change out of the planning process.  This begs a question.

Have we reached a stagnation point in the tourism life cycle?  Are we on a decline?  Is travel abroad or even domestically reverting back to a luxury item?  Certainly, our eyes are bigger than our stomachs at the moment.  And the new planes, the new innovation to use a form of space travel, is far too costly and an elite luxury item.  Maybe that has even stalled.  Who said, “the road is paved with grand intentions…” ~ mind the pot holes…

What if we got back to basics?  What if we returned to simpler motivations, and apply them today?  What if we applied common sense, and people started to wise up, especially those bent on destroying a good thing.  The average cost of an airline ticket hovers around $350 if you examine the statistics published by the Bureau of Transportation.

Avg Cost of Airline Ticket ~BoT
Average cost of airline tickets for three major areas…https://www.rita.dot.gov/bts/airfares/compare/airports-metropolitan-areas/chart/MSP/ORD/WASMETRO

As you can see it has come down compared to 1995.  Yet, is this skewed?  Those numbers for 1995 are adjusted to inflation.  And any economist will tell you, what you bought for a dollar yesterday is not the same as what you bought today.  There are a host of variables when it comes to understanding value, especially from a consumer standpoint.  And this doesn’t take into account the seasonality of tourism.  But are companies hurting not just the consumer, but also, themselves by not understanding value?  Have they lost insight into what value truly means?

I priced out several tickets to Scotland for next summer, and the hidden fees were astronomical.  I was surprised that Virgin allowed me to see the breakdown of the $1200+ ticket for peak season.  (Believe me, I know that you are going to be paying a hefty price for peak season, and distance is a factor.)  Carrier imposed charges were more than 38% of the total cost.  Is that for fuel (they say so, but um…that seems a lot, especially if you fill every seat and at different class prices…$7000 for a seat in upper class, and includes a chauffeur? (can you hear me saying whoop de do???))  Is that for services on the flight?  Is that for food?  Is that for security? (actually no, security is built into the taxes and only cost a measly $5.60 for the 9/11 tax).  The base price of the ticket to just step on the aircraft, and sit down in economy was $510 dollars (42% of the cost).  To me that is for the service, that is for all the quirks, and nuances…that Virgin delivers.  It should also cover the fuel…let’s just say the mystery of how the cost structure is broken down seems a little fishy to me…but then again…I don’t have all the information and can’t give you true, informed opinion.  Virgin posted at $22m dollar profit before taxes last year, up from the year’s previous losses.  Um….

So the question remains, are we stagnating in the tourism life cycle, especially in transportation.  Are airlines, and other transportation offerings gauging prices to control the consumers?  Are they trying to keep most of us from traveling?  What about the promises of other alternatives, like high-speed rail in the US?  We do have an aging infrastructure, and not much is being diverted to help that area.  Even back home in Pennsylvania, the conditions of the bridges are horrible, and I cringe every time I drive across the older construction.  This past summer we had a Bridge Collapse in Ridgeway that sent three construction workers to the hospital.  If 80% or more of our population loves their cars, and we want the economy to strengthen, tourism can be a healthy contributor to that end.  I question the management of funds at all levels, nationally, statewide, regionally and locally that are invested in our infrastructure.  We want the next development in cars, but not at the expense in the lack of decent roads to travel upon or an understanding of the consumer.

I’ve given out the next assignment that underlies the economic impacts of tourism to both the host community, and the consumer.  The students are given a pseudo plane ticket to a remote destination, like Savergre, Costa Rica.  They are given variables, like a budget, and now have to map out their plans, and the effects.  I want them to see the frustration.  To see that it the frustration not only lies with the consumer, but also the destination.  That if you don’t have healthy numbers traveling to your area, services suffer.  And some don’t want a lot, just enough to keep the small entrepreneurs in business.  What happens if you don’t have those numbers coming?  What happens to the livelihood of the host community?  What happens to the consumer?  What will they do?

So…still left with lots of questions…

 

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