Long Lines At Airports Have Got To Go, Says Travel Association

Photo – Chris Owen

The Transportation Security Administration (TSA) has been working on addressing long lines at airport security screening areas for quite some time. TSA Precheck lanes are being expanded to more airports every year and Global Entry lets frequent, pre-authorized travelers to zip into the United States. Just last week, we reported faster airport screening via a new TSA program. But that’s not enough, says a travel trade organization, urging Congress to take action.

The U.S. Travel Association (USTA) is battling what they believe to be the cause of problems at our airports; budget restrictions and poor planning. They believe the current system leaves airports unable to handle millions of visitor a year. They have some specific recommendations too.

Calling for a 50-percent reduction in peak the wait times, the USTA believes it should take just 30 minutes to process travelers. They want Customs and Border Protection staffing and participation in the Global Entry Program increased. Congress should be involved in an ongoing way, and should require periodic progress reports, says the association in a list of 20 recommended policy changes.
Back at the TSA, the new system is indeed a step in the right direction, classifying travelers into three tiers — expedited, standard or enhanced — with each level requiring different procedures and qualifiers. The current system treats all travelers the same and is exactly what the Travel Association wants changed.

In an Open Letter to the U.S. Congress, over 70 travel leaders even suggested ways to fund the additional programing necessary to address the problem and increase transparency in the entire process. It’s a lofty goal but one worthy of pursuit: the U.S. economy could lose $95 billion and 518,000 jobs over the next five years due to long security and customs lines at the nation’s airports.

Zac Efron Mobbed by Fans at Peruvian Airport

‘Vote Travel’ Bus Coming To A City Near You

The United States Travel Association (U.S. Travel) has rolled out a new plan to spread the word on the importance of tourism in America: A big blue bus that is now making its way across the country on a 20,000-mile tour. The bus is a roving advertisement for U.S. Travel, an organization that is on a mission to highlight the economic benefits of travel. The association makes some pretty good points too, citing that travel contributes $1.9 trillion to the US economy and supports more than 14.4 million jobs here on our home turf. Looks like they’re also having some fun while playing off the current political campaign climate.

The bus tour includes major rallies in select cities (for a full list, see the U.S. Travel website), the first of which was held in Las Vegas on April 12. According to the Las Vegas Convention and Visitors Authority, tourism is the number one economic driver in southern Nevada, generating $40 billion for the local economy and supporting 37,000 jobs. Upcoming cities include Seattle, Portland, San Francisco, San Diego, Palm Springs, Los Angeles and Phoenix before the bus makes its way through the south toward Florida followed by a jaunt up the East Coast.

If you spot the bus, stop by to learn how to urge your elected representatives and candidates to sign a pledge that supports policies that “safely and effectively reduce barriers to travel to and within the United States,” according to a press release by the U.S. Travel. The bus also has some swag to give out, such as t-shirts and squishy, stress-relieving buses. Of course, you don’t have to search for the bus in order to help, just visit the Vote Travel website where you can fill out a simple form.

Images (top to bottom) The “Vote Travel” bus inside the Tuscahn Canyon in Ivin, Utah [Photo courtesy the United States Travel Association]; Promotional travel postcards ; [Photo courtesy the United States Travel Association]; and officials from the US Travel Association and employees at the Las Vegas Convention and Visitors Authority and Las Vegas Chamber of Commerce to kick off the “Vote Travel” national wide bus tour on April 12, 2012 [Photo by Darrin Bush]

Travel is key to economic recovery, says U.S. Chamber of Commerce exec

U.S. Chamber of Commerce president and CEO Thomas J. Donohue today called on travel industry executives to fight to protect the United States’ travel and tourism business.

In his keynote speech to the U.S. Travel Association’s International Pow Wow convention in Orlando, Florida, Donohue said the travel industry has been the victim of “foolish attacks,” and it’s time to fight back.

“Congress and federal agencies can help advance the cause of travel and tourism, or they can help undermine it,” Donohue said.

Donohue noted that in the United States, the travel industry is the source of more than 7 million jobs, but nearly 500,000 travel industry jobs have been lost in the current economic recession.

The country is making a mistake by increasing the “hassle factor” for foreign visitors, Donohue said. He called on the U.S. Customs Service to reduce wait times to enter the country to 30 minutes or less:

“While security must always be our very top priority, that doesn’t mean we can’t also become a world leader in customer service.”

Also undermining the cause? Tax increases on tourism, such as the dozens of hotel bed tax increases passed by municipalities last year.

Because the taxes are paid by visitors who vote somewhere else, Donohue said, “it’s tempting for governments to view travel and tourism as a cash cow they can milk again and again.”

Besides raising tourism taxes, some politicians have recently blasted spending on business travel, a move Donohue calls “cheap rhetoric.” He says business travel is responsible for $240 billion in spending, and that is good for the U.S. economy.

“These attacks hurt real people in real communities across the country,” Donohue said. “They don’t help create one single job or put one single person back to work.”