NBTA Issues 2007 Travel Report Card

The National Business Travel Association yesterday issued a report card for the U.S. government on business travel issues ahead of President George W. Bush's State of the Union address. The report ranked official action on the state of the most important business travel issues facing the U.S. government.

The overall grade earned by the performance of Congress and the Administration in 2007 is a C+, according to the report. NBTA graded the progress made in 2007 on the following issues and made recommendations for 2008 on each:

Federal Aviation Administration Funding—D
Airline Performance and Air Traffic Congestion—C
Domestic U.S. Registered Traveler—C
International Registered Traveler—B-
Traveler Taxes—B-
Western Hemisphere Travel Initiative (WHTI) —B+
Model Ports of Entry Program—B
Visa Processing and the Visa Waiver Program—B+

To improve their grades, NBTA recommended that Congress enact FAA reform to reduce delays caused by antiquated systems and said Congress and the Administration should resist legislative or regulatory micromanagement of airline service performance, but require enhanced reporting so consumers can accurately judge airline performance. For registered traveler programs, NBTA suggested doubling enrollment numbers and expanding the program to hub airports, while increasing support for the program in the Congress and executive branch. On taxes, Congress should pass H.R. 2453, and local and state governments should not unfairly target travel expenditures as means of funding unrelated local projects, according to the report.

On issues related to the Western Hemisphere Travel Initiative, the DHS should be flexible in the enforcement of interim rules, and deploy travel-friendly passport cards and EDLs in advance of WHTI's 2009 land and sea deadline, the report suggested. NBTA also recommended Aggressive implementation of the Model Ports of Entry Program by CBP. The Bush Administration should also promptly review potential new countries for the visa waiver program, ensure the Electronic Travel Authorization program is designed in a way that does not impede last-minute business travel from VWP nations, and continue to invest in visa processing capabilities.