How far we've come

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This day, the fifth anniversary of the cowardly attacks against the U.S. by a group of determined but deranged zealots, is one in which all of us take a least a moment of two to reflect on what this pivotal moment in history means to us, our families and our nation. Given the impact of that day and the immediate effect it had on all business, but especially travel, it's hard to imagine how far we've rebounded.

A series of two photos in today's Honolulu Advertiser provides the stark contrast. One photo shows popular Kuhio Beach a few days after 9/11. The beach was nearly empty. The next image shows the same beach just a few days ago, packed cheek by jowl with sunbathers, the vast majority of whom were tourists. The accompanying story explains how the fragile Hawaiian tourism business bounced back dramatically from those dark days five years ago. Occupancies on Oahu have hovered near 90 percent all this year, with corresponding high rates.

It's hard to discern the lesson we can take from this scenario (as well as similar ones in markets like New York City and south Florida). Does it show the resiliency of Americans? Or their passion to travel, despite the built-in dangers and hassles and the effects of a so-so economy? Or the cleverness of the hospitality business to get people to forget their troubles, even for a little while?

The answer, of course, is that's it's probably a little of all three reasons with some other ones I didn't think of. The real lesson is that business, like life, is fragile. What's here and taken for granted today may be gone tomorrow. And while it's never right to be reckless or unthoughtful, there's a lot of truth in the old cliched adage that you should live every day to its fullest. Kiss your spouse as often as possible, dote on your kids and grandkids, be bold in business and, above all, be fair and kind to all your associates, partners, peers and employees. We donâ€â„¢t know what tomorrow brings.

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