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When Gas is Cheap

It’s hard to believe that a gallon of gasoline once cost $4.

It was the summer of 2008. Fuel prices had been climbing steadily for about five years, and nobody knew where they would stop. We watched as the average price of fuel broke the $3 mark, then $4. For all we knew, those prices would continue to rise. Then, the Great Recession hit.

Since 2007, financial experts had been warning that there was a problem in the American economy. In 2008, their warnings grew louder, until, in the fall of that year, we witnessed giant investment banks collapsing and the stock market losing trillions of dollars in value. The financial crisis that got underway in 2008 reached into virtually every area of the economy at home and abroad, causing a steep decline in real estate values — and the price of fuel.

A lot of people took a financial hit during that time, from powerful mortgage company executives to small-business owners and even everyday investors and homeowners. If you were among those who suffered, the sting of the Great Recession probably lasted much longer than the recession itself.

High gas prices and plunging home values weren’t the only things making news in 2008, though. On the entertainment front, a nationwide strike by television and movie writers left the country with no new programming to watch for months. Fortunately, that strike ended in a new agreement for the writers guild but not before many TV and film projects were shelved or scrapped altogether.

That’s not to say the entertainment year was a total bust. Several high-grossing movies from 2008 set up film franchises that are still popular today. Blockbusters that year included “The Dark Knight,” the second of a three-part Batman reboot series; “Twilight,” which kicked off a years-long vampire-fiction frenzy; and “Iron Man,” which spawned two sequels and numerous spin-offs.

For many people, though, the most memorable part of 2008 was the meteoric rise of Barack Obama from a junior senator to president of the United States. Obama broke the color barrier in the White House and is largely credited with galvanizing the millennial generation into political action.

Of course, a lot has changed in the 10 years since 2008. The stock market recently hit an all-time high. The rapid growth of broadband internet, streaming video services and cord-cutting households has fundamentally shifted the entertainment environment. And the man who occupies the White House today is the opposite of his predecessor in virtually every way.

The world is a different place now than it was 10 years ago, and that has implications for the way you do business. Your travelers aren’t the same people they were in 2008, and you’re not the same person either.

If you’ve been in this business for a while, especially for more than a decade, it can be easy to settle into habits you developed long ago. But if the way you plan, advertise and operate your trips hasn’t evolved since 2008, you risk becoming irrelevant.

I’m glad 2008 is in the past, and I’m not interested in going back. Chances are that the people you plan travel for aren’t interested in going back either. So let’s embrace 2018 with excitement and positivity. Because gas is cheap again, and the world is easier to explore than ever.

Brian Jewell

Brian Jewell is the executive editor of The Group Travel Leader. In more than a decade of travel journalism he has visited 48 states and 25 foreign countries.