NBTA Grades Feds On Travel Issues

While the National Business Travel Association (NBTA) welcomes President Obama's emphasis on creating jobs that will kick start the U.S. economy and praised the Department of Transportation (DOT) for awarding $8 billion to states for high-speed rail development, it gave the government an overall grade of a C+ in its  2009 Government Relations Scorecard. The NBTA’s focus is on corporate travel but many of the issues impact the leisure sector.

The NBTA scorecard reflects the NBTA’s analyses of Congressional and federal agency activity on the most important government issues affecting corporate travel. NBTA graded the progress made in 2009 on 12 issues grouped into three categories: Domestic Travel (C), International Travel (B+), and Taxes and Regulation (D-). The NBTA said it was pleased that the business travel industry is already a key component of the agenda in Washington for 2010, but noted that "unfortunately, this wasn’t always the case in 2009"

“2009 was one of the toughest years America has faced in decades," said Michael W. McCormick, NBTA executive director and COO. "And while much work was done by Congress and the Obama Administration to help our ailing economy, efforts to further the corporate travel industry earned the government an average rating. There is clearly more work to be done, and NBTA stands ready to support the government in its efforts to ensure the quality and safe facilitation of global business travel.”

NBTA graded actions taken on the following issues:

Federal Aviation Administration Funding: F
Airline Performance and Aviation Congestion: B+
Transportation Infrastructure: A
Domestic Registered Traveler: C-
Terrorist Watch List and Passenger Rights: B
Traveler Taxes: C
Energy and Climate Change: Incomplete
Regulation of Business Travel: D
International Registered Traveler: A
Visa Processing and the Visa Waiver Program: B-
Western Hemisphere Travel Initiative (WHTI): A-
Model Ports of Entry: D-

The government’s work on transportation infrastructure and international registered traveler programs each earned an "A" from NBTA. The association also lauded the allocation of $8 billion for expansion of high-speed rail across the country and was pleased to learn that the funds will be awarded early in 2010. NBTA also noted that the Department of Homeland Security expanded its Global Entry program to 13 additional U.S. airports in 2009 and launched the first bilateral agreement with a foreign government to allow expedited entry into participating nations.

McCormick added, “These two travel issues were by far the most successful of the year. Investments in transportation infrastructure and improved international passenger facilitation are vital undertakings that will benefit travelers, companies and economies around the world for decades to come.”

Funding for the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) received the lowest grade: an "F." The NBTA says enactment of FAA reauthorization would help speed deployment of the Next Generation Air Transportation System (NextGen), which would help to reduce delays caused by the current antiquated system.

Despite efforts to pass the FAA Reauthorization bill, another short-term extension was enacted in December. Congress and the Administration also did not include funding for NextGen in the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act of 2009, known as the economic stimulus package, nor did the House include NextGen funding in its “Jobs” bill passed last month, the NBTA said.

“The refusal of our government to prioritize the modernization of our aviation system is a significant failure,” said McCormick. “Our economy relies heavily on the efficiency of air travel. In fact, business travel alone contributes $260 billion to the U.S. economy, and we’ve found that investment in business travel could lead to the creation of more than 5 million new jobs.”

In 2010 the NBTA said it will focus on educating Congress and the Administration about the value of business travel, a healthy travel infrastructure, passenger efficiency and safety, and fair taxation and fees. The NBTA has 4,000 members in 30 nations.  The NBTA 2009 Government Relations Scorecard and 2010 Government Relations Agenda can be found at www.nbta.org.