I admit it. The endless stream of absurdities that has poured from the mouths of politicians, presidents, and newscasters over the past five years or so has left me a bit numb. But every once and awhile a headline grabs my attention. “Disabled Chicken Who Survived Weasel Attack Learning to Walk Thanks to Custom Wheelchair.”
Now, you may ask, what this has to do with tourism, travel, automotive history, or Route 66. I can explain.
First it must be admitted that I may be stretching a point here, sort of like saying that the wheel bearing is connected to the muffler. My analogy may seem rather outlandish but the wheel bearing and muffler are connected, in a round about way. But that is far less absurd than something of the things I have heard as of late.
It is not my intent to offend. But I am an old farm boy. I come from a time and place where a chicken crippled by a weasel was called dinner.
It is from that harsh, common sense, realistic perspective that I form opinions, make decisions, and make plans. And that is why it seemed like I was watching a French movie, dubbed in Russian with Japanese subtitles when I listened to Representative Andrew S. Clyde of Georgia explain the assault on the capitol by saying, “Watching the TV footage of those who entered the Capitol and walked through Statuary Hall showed people in an orderly fashion staying between the stanchions and ropes, taking videos and pictures. You know, if you didn’t know the TV footage was a video from January the 6th, you would actually think it was a normal tourist visit.”
Like or not, absolutely everything changed in just a few months last year. Education. Business meetings. Government. Tourism and travel. Even harder to admit is the hard cold fact that nothing will ever be the same. We are still watching the dramatic paradigm shift unfold.
As an example, consider this recent tagline for a story in the San Francisco Chronicle. “Remote workers are being paid $20,000 to relocate to America’s small towns.” Think of the implications and the ramifications as people from metropolitan areas such as Los Angeles, Detroit, San Francisco and Boston relocate to small rural communities in the Ozark Mountains, Nebraska or the Dakota’s. This will affect politics, education, community culture, economic development, the tax base, real estate prices and a multitude of other issues.
For most of the past ten years, it has been the international Route 66 enthusiast that contributed the lions share of economic stimulus to the Route 66 community. That came to an abrupt halt last year. Many of the foreign based Route 66 tour companies that I work with, the ones that haven’t declared bankruptcy, have no plans to return to the states until at least summer 2022. There are, however, trends that show promise for Route 66, and concerns, in the years approaching the highways centennial.
International travelers as well as American tourists have discovered the staycation. Will that trend gain in popularity or will people return to old habits?
The trend shows a bit of waning this summer, but last year RV sales and rentals in the United States broke all records. What does this hold for the future of tourism? Interest in mountain biking and day hikes also soared. Will the trend continue and how can communities capitalize on these interests?
A challenge in long term tourism trend forecasting is ringers, think 2020. Another challenge is trying to understand how people will respond to dramatic, world shaking events. Think 2020. Will people make wheelchairs for chickens or will they have a chicken fry? Will tourism bureaus and tourism development consultants will evaluate the current situation from a realistic, common sense perspective or will they put on rose colored glasses?
Only time will tell. But on the backside of crisis and disasters awaits opportunity, especially for those with vision, with grounded common sense, and with a bit of luck.