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War causes travel-industry woes

Jackson Bell

Jeff Miner feels relieved in not having to leave the United States

the next time he travels.

The Sherman Oaks resident, who frequently flies in and out of the


Burbank- Glendale-Pasadena Airport, plans to exchange wedding vows

with his fiancee and honeymoon on the East Coast this summer.

“I didn’t have any plans, but I certainly wouldn’t make any for

the next six months or so until I see what happens,” he said,


referring to the outcome of the war. “And it’s not just Iraq, but

with [the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks], it doesn’t seem like people

are too welcoming of Americans in various spots around the world.”

Long-distance journey deterrents, such as the fear of terrorism

and a sagging economy, are still pummeling the travel industry,

Aladdin Travel owner Jan Ramsey said. On top of that are public

anxieties about the war in Iraq and the mysterious new disease,

Severe Acute Respiratory Syndrome, she said.


“I think a lot of people are at home watching the news and waiting

to see how [the war] ends,” Ramsey said.

The industry is down 17% nationally for the first three months of

2003 when compared to a year ago, said Rhonda Holguin, the general

manager of Horizon Travel’s umbrella company, Montrose Travel.

Holguin has noticed the increase in vacationers who share Miner’s

mind-set -- they opt to hunt for deals closer to home while canceling

overseas trips to Europe and Asia.


With prices at their lowest in two years and the number of

agencies dwindling from 37,000 to 23,000 in the same duration -- and

more expected to close -- Holguin encourages would-be travelers to

take advantage of the great deals.

For example, a 13-day cruise along the East Coast is as low as

$549 per person. Before the terrorist attacks, she said it would have

cost about $1,300.

Thinking optimistically, Ramsey and Holguin are expecting a

rebound after the war ends. Both noted a quick dip after the war

began, followed by a slight surge in “shopping calls,” an increase in

customers calling to inquire about rates.

Ramada Inn general manager Mark Wilson has also seen a recent

increase in reservations.

“It looks like the war is coming to a close sooner than

anticipated,” he said. “And once that happens, people will start

traveling again.”

With about 10% of the hotel’s business lost to war anxiety and

inflated gas prices, he said the hotel has faired the industry’s

slump better than others due to its affordable nightly rate of $76

and high visibility from the Golden State (5) Freeway.

“We haven’t been hit as hard as some of the more expensive hotels

because people are more value conscious these days,” he said.