As economy hits travel biz, William Shatner fights back

Fri Jan 23, 2009 11:54am EST
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By Kyle Peterson

CHICAGO (Reuters Life!) - The job market stinks, home foreclosures are mounting, consumer spending has slowed to a crawl, and actor William Shatner's job just got a lot tougher.

As the pitchman for online travel agency, Shatner, aka the Priceline Negotiator, has to convince people to take vacations. That's a tall order at a time when economic recession has all but squashed discretionary spending in the United States.

But the 77-year-old actor best known for playing Captain James T. Kirk in the Star Trek movies and television series is hopeful that spending begets spending, and that if enough people loosen their purse strings and venture out for leisure travel the economy could rebound.

"We're in danger of retracting so much that everything will fail," Shatner told Reuters. "We're being fed by fear, and fear feeds on itself. And if we can break that cycle, we might come out of this sooner and better than we expect."

Since 1998, Shatner has been the celebrity spokesman for Priceline, which staked out its turf with its name-your-own-price auction.

But in 2006 Shatner stopped promoting the company as himself and stepped into the role of the Negotiator, a comically intense super agent obsessed with helping travelers find deals on travel bookings.

"He's a commercial character, born of necessity and nurtured on fear," Shatner said.

In the TV ads, the Negotiator barges into homes and offices where he intimidates, berates and bullies customers into negotiating cheap bookings on Priceline.   Continued...

<p>File picture shows William Shatner in Jerusalem May 29, 2006. REUTERS/Ronen Zvulun</p>