Friday, June 3, 2011


This year's Global Travel & Tourism Summit meeting of international travel-biz executives and government officials, which I recently attended in Las Vegas, was one part bombast and one part high seriousness. When speakers, delegates and media weren't gambling, eating, drinking, sightseeing, chattering or being subjected to high-decible recorded music and throbbing graphics, they wrestled with very important issues: Like how to make travel both convenient and secure and how to fully onleash travel's power to raise revenue and create jobs.

Inevitably, much of what was said was instantly forgotten. But occasionally someone broke through the noise with incisiveness and humor, wrapped in quotable remarks. Here are two quotables I liked, one serious, one funny.

After a speaker noted that international tourism arrivals soared worldwide to 806 million in 2005, up from just 25 million in 1950, Steve Ridgway, the chief executive of Virgin Atlantic Airways, took the stage. Those aren't idle statistics, he noted, and the transformation of travel happened for a reason, with implications that go well beyond travel and tourism.

"We would not have a global economy without the jet engine,'' Ridgway pointed out. "China and India would not be emerging without the jet engine.''

Sounds obvious but it's not something people give full weight to.

On the flip side of serious, there was Las Vegas's peppery, diminutive mayor, Oscar Goodman, who walked up on stage to the sounds of an Elvis Presley song, with a towering, costumed showgirl on each arm and a cocktail glass in his hand.

"I never go anywhere without my showgirls and my martini,'' Goodman wisecracked. "I have the most fun of any mayor in America.''

It's hard to argue with that.

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