Obama listens to travel industry gripes

Leaders from across the travel industry met with President Barack Obama today to discuss … not a bailout. It’s no secret that luxury suffers when times are tough, and for many, any form of travel is not essential. Delta is cutting capacity, and the industry as a whole is getting ready to shed more than 200,000 jobs this year.

So, what is an industry of “frivolity” worth to our economy? A whopping $740 billion in annual spending … which fuels 7.7 million American jobs.

Travel is more important to us than we may realize. Sure, it provides some recreation and allows face-to-face business meetings. But, it also keeps the goods on grocery store shelves turning over, as each travel industry employee puts food on the table.

Unlike many corners of the economic world, this group of travel executives approached the president with a solution. They believe we need to bring more international visitors to the United States (a tough proposition with the recent turn in the U.S. dollar’s fortune) and do something to stem the downturn in meetings and events.

Roger Dow, President and CEO of the U.S. Travel Association, says, “We are pleased that President Obama recognizes the power of travel to strengthen America’s economy.” He continues, “The travel community has an ally in President Obama and we appreciate the leadership he intends to bring to increasing travel to, and within, the United States.”

Of course, no exec would give up a chance to lobby the man in the Oval Office. The travel industry pushed for the passage of the Travel Promotion Act, which would yield the first U.S. marketing campaign targeted at growing the number of international visitors. Smart idea … as the average foreign visitor drops $4,000 inside our borders per visit.

Okay, it’s kind of a bailout. But, at least it comes with a plan. The executives at the meeting are listed after the jump.

  • Roger Dow, President & CEO, U.S. Travel Association
  • Jonathan M. Tisch, Chairman and CEO, Loews Hotels; Chairman Emeritus, U.S. Travel Association
  • Jim Abrahamson, President, the Americas, IHG
  • Jim Atchison, President and COO, Busch Entertainment Corp.
  • Jeff Clarke, CEO and President, Travelport
  • Howard Frank, Vice Chairman and COO, Carnival Corporation & plc
  • Barney Harford, President and CEO, Orbitz Worldwide
  • W. Stephen Maritz, Chairman and CEO, Maritz Holdings Inc.
  • Bill Marriott, Chairman and CEO, Marriott International, Inc.
  • Jay Rasulo, Chairman, Walt Disney Parks and Resorts
  • Colin Reed, Chairman and CEO, Gaylord Entertainment
  • Frits van Paasschen, President, CEO and Director, Starwood Hotels and Resorts
  • Tom Williams, Chairman and CEO, Universal Parks and Resorts

Obama’s blockhead double takes oath in CA

While President Barack Obama took the oath of office in Washington, D.C., his counterpart did the same in Carlsbad, CA. While the west coast ceremony was a bit rough around the edges, the blockhead appears to have done just fine.

LEGOLAND® California is celebrating our new president with a new display, running until Memorial Day, May 25, 2009. Visitors to this theme park can enjoy the ascension of the 44th president of the United States on the steps of the Capitol in Miniland U.S.A.

The entire effort includes block depictions of Obama and his family, Vice President Joseph Biden and his wife Jill and former presidents and vice presidents George Bush (senior and junior), Dick Cheney and their spouses. In all, more than a thousand “people” were erected to show the inauguration. Most of the figures stand four inches high. In the audience, you’ll find some famous spectators, including Senator Dianne Feinstein, Aretha Franklin and Yo Yo Ma. The U.S. Marine Corps Band and San Francisco Boys Chorus are in attendance as well.

The LEGOLAND inauguration is part of a larger exhibition comprised of more than 22 million LEGO bricks that renders major cities such as New York, Las Vegas and San Francisco in this unique art form.

Last look at tips for the inauguration

Tomorrow is the last day before the new president is sworn in. You are among the 2 million people (at least) heading into our nation’s capital for this event. A new president will take office, and unless you’re invited to one of the evening’s inaugural balls, you’ll need someplace to go.

Don’t worry; the Wall Street Journal has been thinking of you. The newspaper’s reporters have compiled a list of attractions.

National Portrait Gallery: In particular, take a look at the “Mask of Lincoln” exhibit.

Corcoran Gallery of Art: Catch a glimpse of Richard Avedon’s shot of a skeptical Barack Obama.

Torpedo Factory: No longer a munitions center, the former U.S. Naval Torpedo Station is now inhabited by artists.

Kennedy Center: Aretha Franklin will be on the stage on Monday.

And, there are more, so many more. Believe it or not, there is more in Washington, D.C. than the inauguration!

[Many thanks to the fine folks at the Journal for pulling this list together]

Airbus A380 to become the new Air Force One?

Airbus, the European aircraft manufacturer and largest competitor to Boeing, is reportedly working on an offer to provide the President with their A380 super jumbo to replace the outdated fleet of VC-25’s currently being used.

Of course, the whole thing is probably a great way to generate some PR for Airbus, as I don’t think there is a chance in hell that the United States would fly our president around the world in a European built plane (not that there is anything wrong with the A380!).

There are other reasons why I don’t think President Obama would ever pick Airbus to replace Air Force One – Boeing has its headquarters in his home state of Illinois.

Still, the article does point out several reasons why the A380 would be a great choice for the new presidential carrier – emissions are about 25% lower than the 747, despite being a whopping 50% larger. It also produces 50% less cabin noise.

Still, if the new administration is seriously looking to spend $700 Million for these 2 new planes, they’d better do it soon, before you know it, there won’t be any cash left to spend on luxury items like this. Lets just hope that they are not looking at the A380 sardine can version recently purchased by this French Airline.

The press claim this A380 would become the new “Air Obama” but failed to realize that the Air Force won’t be needing the new jet till 2017, long after Obama ends his one or two terms. By then, the current Air Force One fleet will be 30 years old.

Obama’s Election Inspires Baby Naming in Kenya

Aaron recently wrote a post here on Gadling about a production of Obama: The Musical in Kenya. The song and dance-filled bio-play shows how ridiculously popular Barack is in his father’s home country. Well, some Kenyans are upping the ante further by naming their children, and their beer, after the prez-elect. “Senator” Beer, a locally made brew, was inspired by Obama’s previous political rank. No word yet on how sales stack up against perennial favorite, Tusker.

Mothers in Obama’s ancestral homeland of Kisumu have been naming their newborns Barack Obama, or some variation thereof. Have a girl? No problem. Several female babies in the province bear the name of Michelle Obama. Sharing your name with the future president of the US doesn’t come without its share of pressures. One mother told a Reuters reporter that she expects great thing out of her pint-sized Barack Obama. “I would like that by the time he is in his 40s he becomes the president of this country.”

I know there is a lot of excitement now, but wouldn’t it be wise to wait to see how Obama performs in office before naming your child after him? I mean, what if your parents had named you after Richard Nixon?

And it appears that a few Americans are getting in on the fad as well.


[Via Reuters]