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Marilyn Carlson Nelson

chairman & ceo, carlson companies

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Travel industry shedding excess baggage

The nation's travel industry has reacted to a drop in corporate and leisure travel by aggressively cutting costs, the chief executive of one of the world's largest hotel operators said Boston College's Chief Executives Club.

The privately held Carlson Companiess operates hotels, resorts and restaurants under the Radisson, Regent, Park Plaza and T.G.I Friday's flags in 140 countries. Its units employ about 190,000 people, including about 10,000 in Massachusetts, and boast sales totaling $ 19 billion.

She said Carlson Cos. and the travel industry have reacted to big drops in both leisure and corporate travel by slashing costs. "We are just intensely focusing on this as a matter of short-term survival," she said. "We have to get costs down. We're taking very dramatic costs out."

She said if travel stops in the event of war, the industry should look at it as a "hiatus" - a time to reinvest and implement more efficient operations. "We have to get through that, and not everyone will," she said. Nelson said some travel units within her company are being called on by travelers to find safer destinations and make travel easier.

Still, she said there is "an extreme desire to travel" both in the United States and around the world, and as the geopolitical situation settles down the industry will see a resurgence.

Article by Greg Gatlin
Boston Herald
March 7, 2003