World Briefing

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Taking Off from Gate 3: Tourism
Tourists are on the move again — and the beleaguered travel industry is breathing a sigh of relief. According to a report by the International Air Traffic Association (IATA) released last month, global air-traffic levels in the first five months of this year have been 8.8% above those of 2000, the last normal year for the industry (before SARS and terrorism struck). The Madrid-based World Tourism Organization (WTO), a United Nations agency, echoes the good news. It expects tourism to grow 5% in 2004. The WTO reports that France is the most popular tourist destination this year. Asia is also rebounding from last year's devastating SARS season: compared with 2003, Asian airlines' passenger traffic was up 108% in May, according to IATA, and international arrivals in April rose 120%, reports the WTO. Hotel business is on the upswing too. Says John Wolf, a Marriott International spokesman: "We're experiencing strong leisure-travel demand globally." But the tourism trade can't rest easy yet: more people may be leaving home, but the WTO says they're likely to spend less money than they did four years ago.

Catering to Highflyers
Had to shell out a few bucks for an in-flight meal recently? That's because cost-cutting airlines don't want to pay for expensive food anymore. So the now empty-handed caterers are going after your business directly. Leading the way are two of the industry's biggest caterers, Switzerland-based Gate Gourmet Group Inc. and Germany-based LSG Sky Chefs. "Before, our customer was the airline," says David Siegel, former president and CEO of US Airways Group Inc. and Gate Gourmet's newly appointed chairman and CEO. "Now, it is the passenger." How do passengers feel about forking over money for food? Dalene Nichols, spokeswoman for Sky Chefs, says its customers "are embracing the concept." In fact, recent company surveys show that 87% of them think Sky Chefs meals are a good value. Audrey McCool, professor of food-and-beverage management at the University of Nevada in Las Vegas, isn't so sure. On a recent flight, she was served a sandwich that was "smashed together." Cost: $7.

Give Way to the Wackos
Author John Putzier has a bone to pick with organizations that treat their employees as if they were all clones of one another. In his new book, Weirdos in the Workplace, Putzier argues that even the quirkiest employees — from crazy Annie, who talks to her pets on the phone once a day, to annoying Lester, who pesters you to buy his daughter's Girl Scout cookies — have their merit. The book contains humorous real-life case studies that exemplify the growing phenomenon of "doing your own thing." After all, we live in an age of Fear Factor and Survivor, in which "everyone wants their 15 minutes of fame," says Putzier. Tolerating employees who are different might be a sensible management mantra, but Putzier offers up little more than commonsense tips to managers on how they can use even the strangest workers to their company's advantage.

The Compliance Trade
If you can't beat them, hire them. Under pressure from the Sarbanes-Oxley Act to improve corporate oversight, Wall Street firms are beefing up their legal departments with one former government regulator after another. "Many of our clients are looking for people with strong regulatory sensibilities," says Susan Kurz Snyder of Greene-Levin-Snyder Legal Search Group, an executive-recruitment firm. In the past year, Eric Dinallo from New York attorney general Eliot Spitzer's office and the SEC's Patrick Patalino have switched over to Morgan Stanley and Credit Suisse First Boston, respectively. The latest defector: Beth L. Golden, Spitzer's former deputy of special projects, who becomes the global head of compliance at the Bear Stearns Cos. next month. Bear Stearns has received requests for information and subpoenas from many federal and state agencies, including Spitzer's office, regarding mutual-fund-trading investigations. Not that Golden can help. An ethics law bars her from working on cases involving her former employer for the next two years.

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