Travel slowdown but shutdown may not be the culprit

NEW YORK — While the government shutdown has already begun
affecting the travel industry, a very recent slowdown in travel could more
likely be attributed to December’s stock market volatility, said John Lovell,
president of Travel Leaders Network and Leisure Group.

Lovell was asked about the shutdown during a Travel Leaders
Group industry outlook panel held at its headquarters here Wednesday morning.

“The last week-and-a-half we have seen a
slowdown, but I think the majority of that was really the stock market,”
Lovell said.

Lovell said Travel Leaders Network entered the year
strongly. Wave season, one of the busiest booking times of the year, “started
out extremely well,” he said. While Wave traditionally began in January
and continues through March, Lovell said today it starts in November. That gave
the network some early insights into 2019.

“When we exited the year, we were really in a pretty
good position,” he said. “But coming out of that, I think people are
starting to see their 401k statements, their investment statements, and
whatever economic bracket you’re in, you might be going, ‘Wow, we did take a
hit.’ So add that with the government shutdown.”

But, Lovell said, “demand always comes back.”

“Every indication, from a GDP standpoint and consumer
confidence, although it dipped, is we’re in a really good position,” he
said.

Travel Leaders Group CEO Ninan Chacko also addressed the
shutdown.

“I think the industry continues to hold strong,”
he said. “We’ll see whether that continues to be the case a week from now.”

Chacko said Travel Leaders Group is watching the situation
closely. He said he is “incredibly grateful” for the efforts of security
screeners and customs agents who continue to work during the shutdown even
though they’re not collecting a paycheck.

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