Beware the predictors

19 September 2001

Nothing makes ordinary people feel so helpless as when they watch others, just like themselves, suffering.

So it was last week, as we all wandered about during the day with glazed eyes, reeling from the reality of what it had seemed could never happen. Tuesday's events in the US were graphic, they were live in our living room, and they destroyed the sorts of icons we had once associated with the word "security".

News quickly becomes emotion when it puts us in the shoes of those on the other end of that television screen, and it was a week of tears for even the toughest of us.

When you feel helpless, you turn to news. I've never watched so much news on a stretch as Tuesday through Saturday. American friends tell me that initially they even felt guilty at the idea of switching over to a movie, for fear they might miss anything. And for sure, we felt the power of the media to bring together with precision a jigsaw puzzle which was unfolding globally and rapidly – and play the ongoing story out, piece by piece, one tear at a time.

We gasped over rolling smoke clouds, cheered on burly firefighters, and shuddered at thoughts of final phone calls.

I also remember thinking, imagine timing the announcement of your new book, or rock band, to that week. On CNN, CNBC and BBC at least, there just wasn't another story around. But in the cycle of "breaking news", I also feel there is a danger point. It comes after a few days of blanket coverage, at the point at which the networks, seeing a lull in blanket (and very profitable) viewership, have to play a new card.

Enter the predictors. We've heard from them all this week – retaliation, global recession, holy war, travel industry disaster.

Wheeling in the so-called "experts", the networks demand a considered, measured assessment of a complex international situation, without the full facts before them, in the sort of time most people need just to plan their Friday evening. Forecasts may be educated guesses, but let's not forget that they are still guesses. As as we realised shockingly on Tuesday, none of us can really predict the future.

There's a list of key questions with news – what, where, when, who, why, and what next? With this, we now know the first three. The next three, nobody can yet pretend to know for sure. As we watch, angrily demanding answers, we must sometimes realise that maybe there are none yet.

The risks of jumping to conclusions over the future are huge. Sometimes it seems ridiculous, but the free market is driven by that most unpredictable and fleeting of feelings – confidence. Therefore were we all to panic, though a very human reaction, it could be disastrous.

Travel is the most obvious target for media, analysts and investors to dump on right now, and while we in the industry know that we're in for a rough ride, we also know that the innate curiosity of people to travel is a mighty powerful beast.

And let's not forget the somewhat fraught record of the predictors.

Remember the Millennium Bug which would ravage the world? The comet which would wipe us out? The "Red Menace" which would capture our souls? Remember the all-conquering New Economy?

What must be remembered is, at best, we can really only guess what will happen tomorrow.

Email Luke

Welcome to PARKROYAL COLLECTION Marina Bay, Singapore

Eco-friendly practices and innovations, thoughtfully integrated at PARKROYAL COLLECTION Marina Bay, Singapore, provide sustainable travel experiences for everyone.

Read Now

The Brightest Travel Stars Shine
October - December 2022 eBook

A salute to the top performers across Asia Pacific’s travel industry.

Read Now

JDS Travel News JDS Viewpoints JDS Africa/MI