Tragedy, Travel and Tourism
Diversification and patience are the keys to weathering today's turbulent hospitality market.
Without a doubt, the Sept. 11 tragedy has rocked the travel and tourism industry. In addition to massive airline layoffs, restaurants and hotels that depend on tourism dollars have suffered. According to the National Restaurant Association about 103,000 restaurant jobs were shed in September following the attacks, the largest drop in history. It stands to reason then, that for those that supply products to the hospitality industry, business is not quite the same.
"The process of selling to this industry has definitely been altered since the Sept. 11 tragedy," said Graham McClean, president of Global Docugraphix, a $100 million-plus distributorship in Lincolnshire, Ill. "People are delaying ordering, reducing quantities or not ordering at all. There is no question that attention has been diverted."
Corporate Vice President Tony Kegowicz, Graphics Services Division of North American Corporation, a Glenview, Illinois-based distributorship, agreed. The company, said Kegowicz, has serviced hotels, resorts and cruise lines for about 15 years.
"What we saw in the wake of Sept. 11 was a temporary halt on budgets," said Kegowicz, adding that he believes the ultimate financial impact of the events on his business will be minor. "Most markets paused to reflect on what was happening. And while other markets seemed to have returned to normal more quickly than the hospitality areas, now we see it starting to recognize the need to generate more traffic through promotional avenues such as direct mail."
Global Docugraphix's work in the hospitality market, however, is concentrated mainly on travel agencies—a sector that McClean described as hard hit, although he predicts that the downturn will be short term.
"Certainly in Houston, where we have a concentration of this business, there will be a negative effect," said McClean, "but I'm confident that it will come back."