Sitting by the Pool, She Told Me About Iran

We had lunch in the brilliant blinding Hollywood sunshine, on the roof next to an empty glistening pool. I sat next to a couple who worked for Phocuswright, and the conversation got around to my trip on Saturday to Iran. She said that in 1978 she was an exchange student, and that she lived in Tehran. She had fond memories of the country. “They have the most wonderful fruit there,” she said, “and there are Kentucky Fried Chicken restaurants all over the city. They don’t eat beef or pork, so chicken and lamb are really big there.”

She talked about the tension that was so palpable during the time of the Shah’s visit to America and how fearful it became, almost overnight, to be an American. Once when she was walking downtown, an acquaintance pulled her into an alley and shook his finger, warning her in Farsi that she was not safe any more, that walking around as an American was no longer an option. She had to spend the next two weeks as a virtual prisoner, staying inside until she could get a flight home.

This hotel overlooks Hollywood’s hills and is right next door to the Kodak Theater where they hold the Oscars each year. Once again Phocuswright has impressed me with the level of speakers and the fact that so many top players come here and make this a regular part of their November calendar. People walk around staring at nametags, and I do the same, striking up quick conversations and cutting right to the chase–just the way I like it.

The president of Expedia had a great quote about our business….that travel is a right, not a luxury…and that people deserve to travel and still will. It feels great being a part of the world’s most vital industry, and this conference makes us all feel proud.