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CNN LIVE EVENT/SPECIAL

America's Travel Industry

Aired October 3, 2001 - 06:39   ET

THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.


THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.
CAROL LIN, CNN ANCHOR: The true test of what's to become of the American travel industry may still lie ahead, but, of course, the holiday season is just around the corner.

So Mantill Williams is joining us this morning. He is AAA's national director of public affairs, and he comes to us from Washington -- good morning, Mantill.

MANTILL WILLIAMS, AAA NATIONAL DIRECTOR: Good morning, Sandy.

LIN: It's actually Carol, but I'm sure...

WILLIAMS: I'm sorry.

LIN: ... you're talking to a lot of people these days. You can call me Sandy if you like.

WILLIAMS: It's a little early for me

(CROSSTALK)

LIN: Early for me too. I can hardly remember my own name.

All right. What are the statistics that you have there in terms of how people's travel changed after the September 11 attacks?

WILLIAMS: Well, what we find is during September 10 through 19, our travel agency business was down more than 50 percent. But for the first time, this survey that we're coming out with later today, our auto club -- our AAA club of southern part -- southern region, what they're finding is we're starting to see the numbers trend upwards slightly. We are seeing that people aren't imprisoning themselves, that they really cherish that freedom of mobility. And so, we're starting to see signs that people are beginning to travel and are beginning to ease back into travel.

LIN: Well, maybe a lot of people might want to, as they start traveling again, take advantage of some of these low fares and discounted rates at hotels.

Have you noticed where people are getting the best deals? Where are they heading and, you know, where are they going? And where are they getting the best deals? WILLIAMS: Well, Florida still is the No. 1 destination for right now. And you're right, they're getting really good deals. They're really getting good fares on airlines. They're getting good deals on hotel rooms. We're seeing deals on where people are slicing (ph) their prices almost by 50 percent, so that is helping.

And I think what also is helping is people are starting to develop that travel confidence. I think Bush's plan is helping, but we hope that they leave that door open, so that we can look at the possibility of federalizing those airline security workers.

LIN: What's the fear out there right now? I mean, what are your members telling you about what are they really specifically afraid of?

WILLIAMS: Well, I mean, it's understandable that these numbers would be down at least in the short term. They are -- right now the nation is still in a period of grieving. Of course, there is some legitimate concerns about security, but what we're finding is people aren't going to imprison themselves. They really are starting to travel. They're starting to ease back into it.

Some of these security measures that's been taken by some of the airports, they are helping. We think that if we make them more consistent by making sure that we treat airline security as national security, we think that would help a lot in terms of ensuring confidence in travelers.

LIN: So as confidence rises, do you expect also the prices will, too, for tickets and gasoline and hotel rooms?

WILLIAMS: Well, that is one of the unfortunate things as once the economy gets back on its feet, everything will adjust to it, particularly prices will adjust to it. But we think in the short term, particularly coming up for Thanksgiving travel, which is usually the heaviest travel weekend of the year, you might -- we will see a lot of good deals, and we probably will see a little bit more people traveling by car.

LIN: But, Mantill, usually it's during those hot holiday periods that the airlines and rental car companies jack up their prices. So what are you expecting this year? Do you think they're going to be trying to woo the customers back by keeping their prices pretty reasonable?

WILLIAMS: I think so. I think we're in a situation we've never been in before. We are at a point -- we're sort of at a crossroads where we really need people to get on -- to start to travel to help out the economy. And I think hotel chains and airlines, they will do everything in their power to woo people back. So I think a lot of customers are going to see a lot of great deals.

LIN: So would you suggest that people book now, then, to lock in these lower prices?

WILLIAMS: Absolutely. The deals are out there right now, today. So I would say book early, as soon as you possibly can, so you can lock in that deal. Because we know these deals aren't going to last forever.

LIN: No. No, I agree with you. I agree with you.

WILLIAMS: Exactly.

LIN: A friend of mine in the newsroom was talking about going to Miami, and he booked -- he managed to book a $350 a night hotel room at a five-star hotel for $95 a night. Those are some of the deals that we're seeing out there right now.

WILLIAMS: Exactly. I mean, you're exactly right. You're seeing deals that you probably won't see for a long time. You're seeing -- you'll be saving almost by 50 percent in a lot of areas in meals, lodging, as well as airline fares. And you won't see this probably ever again. So we think that we -- the consumer should definitely jump on it right now.

LIN: Indeed. All right, thanks so much, Mantill Williams, for joining us from Washington...

WILLIAMS: Thank you.

LIN: ... this morning with AAA.

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