Sunday, August 19, 2007



Last April I interviewed Jonathan Tisch regarding a book he wrote, Chocolates On The Pillow Aren't Enough-- Reinventing the Customer Experience. Tisch's position as CEO of Loews Hotels isn't really why I thought of him today. For more than a decade he has been the Chairman of the Travel Business Roundtable, and is a founder of the Discover America Partnership and a member of the Department of Commerce's U.S. Travel and Tourism Advisory Board. Foreign tourism is at the center of much of his life.
Foreign tourism is down nearly 20% since Bush, at heart a paranoid, provincial hayseed and a xenophobic nativist, took over the White House. The Republicans may have once been a business friendly party but now... well, during the Bush era our economy has lost $93 billion in revenue from global tourism (and $15 billion in taxes)-- not to mention 58 million fewer visitors and nearly 200,000 lost jobs. Last week the Department of Commerce released figures that reveal that overseas travel to the U.S. remains below pre-9/11 levels in six of the top eight overseas markets-- Mexico and Canada being the two exceptions. Travel to the U.S. in 2006 fell further in five out of the top eight overseas markets. A 2006 survey of overseas travelers conducted by the Discover America Partnership found negative perceptions of the U.S. entry process to be the greatest deterrent to visiting the country. That's not pro-Business and it's not good customer service. Tourists and businessmen from Britain, Japan, Germany, France, Italy, and Brazil are opting to go elsewhere.

Today's London Times has a report that makes one think that if Giuliani manages to capture the White House next year, the tourism business will remember the Bush years as "the good old days." Giuliani has been in a death match with Flip Flop Mitt in recent days about who hates migrant workers and undocumented immigrants more. Each lays claim to that dubious distinction, though neither has come anywhere near earning it-- not if you consider their relatively enlightened public records-- and not if you consider the records of the other pathetic pygmies™, whose suggestions for solving immigration problems span the stratosphere from rounding up 14 million people and kicking them out to building a wall around America. But today Giuliani has raised the ante-- and raised it in a way that could be a death-knell for the American tourism industry. With foreign tourists already stressed out about coming to visit America-- with their billions of dollars in annual expenditures here-- Giuliani, stoking Know Nothing paranoia among simpleminded GOP base voters in backward regions, is demanding that all visitors be required to carry ID with fingerprints and photos. “If you don’t have that card, you get thrown out of the country,” he assures the bucktoothed idiots who come to his campaign events in Iowa and South Carolina. He compares it to getting tough on welfare recipients.
The proposal plays to his reputation for being tough on terrorism and shores up his credentials on immigration, but at the price of a row over civil liberties.

“The question is: in what circumstances will people be asked for their IDs?” said Jay Stanley, a privacy expert at the American Civil Liberties Union. “Will dark-skinned foreigners be asked for their IDs while a Caucasian person isn’t?” Opponents also believe it could be costly, cumbersome and could affect trade and tourism.

Giuliani said: “I did it back in 1994 with welfare people. It was a big, big, horrible thing that I was doing. I was asking welfare people to be biometrically identified by their fingerprints.

“It worked. It got rid of the duplicates and triplicates, people who were getting welfare at three different places.”

Duplicates and triplicates? That's a persistent Republican lie that isn't borne out by any facts. "Among the 148,502 Home Relief recipients checked in the city, the fingerprint screening system found 43 cases of double dipping. In the other 35 counties in the state using the fingerprinting system, 17 cases of double dipping have been found among 24,593 clients." And triplicates? Maybe he was mixing that up with the number of cousins he married.

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