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White House, U.S. Travel Clash Over Government Travel

July 21, 2010 By: George Dooley

The U.S. Travel Association has labeled the Obama Administration's efforts to arbitrarily curb business travel by government employees in an effort to protect the environment as "short-sighted and counterproductive," citing a 2009 study by Oxford Economics which reported that government business travel has a more than 5:1 return on investment. The White House said the government will aim to reduce carbon dioxide and other greenhouse gas emissions from indirect sources by 13 percent in 2020, compared with 2008 levels.

“Every year, the Federal Government consumes more energy than any other single organization or company in the United States,” said President Obama. “That energy goes towards lighting and heating government buildings, fueling vehicles and powering federal projects across the country and around the world. The government has a responsibility to use that energy wisely, to reduce consumption, improve efficiency, use renewable energy, like wind and solar, and cut costs.”

U.S. Travel said believes less government participation in necessary meetings, trade shows and other types of business travel will lead to a decline in federal employee productivity and to job losses for American workers employed in the travel industry. "Discouraging business travel is short-sighted and counterproductive," said Roger Dow, president and CEO of the U.S. Travel Association. "This type of arbitrary and across-the-board approach will further economic decline at precisely the wrong time for the more than two million Americans whose jobs depend on business travel. We call on the Obama Administration to work with the travel community to promote sustainable business travel initiatives through incentives rather than promote a policy that undoubtedly will lead to job losses for Americans already struggling in this economic climate."

Oxford Economics found that, for every dollar invested in business travel, businesses benefit an average of $12.50 in incremental revenue and $3.80 in new profits. Viewed from a macroeconomic perspective, a 10 percent increase in government travel would increase public sector productivity and GDP by 1 percent to 1.4 percent. The travel industry lost more than 400,000 over the last two years and is now facing thousands of unexpected job losses due to the BP oil spill, U.S Travel said.

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