Category Archives: Business Travel

White House seeks to boost post-recession travel

The White House on Wednesday sought to reassure travel industry leaders that the United States cares about tourism and hopes to push the industry as the country recovers from a recession that left many without the means to spend as much on vacations and business trips.

    1. Image: the statue of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. is seen unveiled from scaffolding during the soft opening of the Martin Luther King, Jr. Memorial in Washington,


      Dedication of King Memorial postponed

      Sunday’s dedication ceremony for the new Martin Luther King, Jr. Memorial in Washington, D.C., has been postponed due to the looming threat of Hurricane Irene, organizers announced.

    2. How airlines are responding to Irene

    3. 17th person dies at Yosemite National Park

    4. Flight attendants train for cabin pressures

    5. Man reportedly threatened flight crew with glass

Valerie Jarrett, senior adviser to President Barack Obama, told executives at the Global Travel Tourism Summit that the U.S. wants to help make travel easy and safe, attract international visitors and spur business.

“All of these investments stem from a single belief: If it’s easier to travel through the United States, more people will choose to do so,” Jarrett said. She was one of three Obama administration officials expected to speak at the summit.

Global tourism took a big dip in 2009 as the economy struggled, with visitors around the world spending $2.33 trillion on domestic travel and $1.03 trillion on international travel, a combined $283.5 billion less than they spent in 2008.

“Where there is commitment, travel and tourism does thrive,” said David Scowsill, the council’s president and chief executive. “It will happen if you’re determined to make it happen.”

Americans will spend an estimated $714 billion this year on domestic travel, while international travelers are expected to spend far less — $171.2 billion — visiting the United States, according to data from The World Travel Tourism Council.

At the summit, Jarrett and Transportation Secretary Ray LaHood touted investments in high-speed rail, the creation of a public-private corporation to promote tourism in the United States and agreements to expand international and cargo air routes. Homeland Security Secretary Janet Napolitano was scheduled to talk about safety at the conference on Thursday.

They also faced questions about America’s commitment to travel given a perception of preferential treatment to other business sectors and an offhand remark Obama made two years ago that irked hoteliers and other companies that took it to mean he was against business travel.

Obama, who was speaking about companies that took bailout money using the taxpayer funds to take trips, has clarified the remarks personally on several occasions.

“We get it — we think all of you contribute mightily. You all contribute a lot to our economy,” LaHood said. “This administration is committed to what you’re all doing. If we weren’t, we wouldn’t be here this morning.”

LaHood’s comments came after Scowsill said during his opening address that tourism isn’t held in the same regard as other industries in the United States, including banking and automobiles, even though it contributes about as much to the global economy.

The council, a trade group based in the United Kingdom made up of about 100 travel industry CEOs around the world, estimated tourism will directly and indirectly contribute nearly $6 trillion to global domestic product in this year. That number is up from $5.7 trillion last year.

Scowsill said tourism is 9 percent of global domestic product, while autos contribute 8 percent and banking contributes 11 percent.

“Just look at the attention government bailouts and protections those industries attract, whilst we, the tourism industry, receive second-class treatment,” Scowsill said. “We need to change the rules.”

Jarrett said the United States is working to expand its ability to process tourist visas for international travelers, with the State Department hiring 700 new officers in 2010 and creating about 100 consular positions overseas since 2007.

“We’re proud of what we’ve done, and we will work hard to do better in the months and years ahead,” Jarrett said.

Copyright 2011 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

Fewer hubs mean fewer options for fliers

In the newest round of airline mergers, some airports will lose a significant chunk of scheduled service and, in some cases, their regional hub status.

For travelers in cities such as Cleveland and Memphis, Tenn., that means getting from here to there may soon be more costly and more complicated.

“Business travelers bear the brunt of the impact from hub downsizing,” said Kevin Mitchell of the Business Travel Coalition. “They travel to call on customers, prospective customers and governments in smaller cities. Fewer frequencies to these cities will result in higher prices, less productive travel and fewer options when there are air travel disruptions.”

In March, Delta Air Lines — which completed a merger with Northwest in 2008 — announced plans to cut about 25 percent of its current service at Memphis International Airport, which had been one of Northwest Airlines’ three major hubs. Airline officials described the move as a necessary cost-cutting measure.

The cuts, to be completed by the end of the year, mean that many business and leisure passengers who enjoyed nonstop flights to and from Memphis will now likely be making a connecting stop at Delta’s major hub in Atlanta, about 300 miles away. “Fares for passengers who previously just transited in Memphis won’t change that much,” said Tom Reich of aviation consulting firm Air Service Partners. “But those customers from the smaller regional markets will be hurt.”

Memphis currently serves about 9.5 million passengers a year, said Larry Cox, president and CEO of the Memphis-Shelby County Airport Authority. He expects an 8 percent to 10 percent drop in passengers as a result of Delta’s cuts.

“Delta did what it had to do — eliminate unprofitable flying from Memphis,” said Cox. “We don’t want to lose that service, but it’s understandable in the economy.”

Reich predicts Southwest Airlines, which recently acquired AirTran, will add a few new flights in Memphis, but he believes Delta will continue cutting capacity in Memphis. “It will be a continual unwinding of the hub, maybe over four or five years. That’s a typical strategy. It took US Airways that long in Pittsburgh from the first announcement of cuts until the hub was gone.”

Airline consolidations

US Airways pulled its hub out of Pittsburgh International Airport in 2004. Following the airline’s move, passenger traffic dipped from a 1997 peak of more than 20.7 million passengers to about 13.3 million in 2004 and, by 2009, to just over 8 million. The airport closed its commuter terminal and put up walls at the ends of the A and B concourses so areas of the terminal didn’t look abandoned.

US Airways is still the No. 1 carrier at Pittsburgh, but the airport has spent the last few years diversifying both its mix of carriers and its sources of income. Pittsburgh has attracted new carriers such as Southwest and JetBlue and successfully transformed itself from a transfer hub to a bustling origination and destination airport. More travelers from western Pennsylvania, northern West Virginia and eastern Ohio now use the airport, and in 2010, passenger traffic inched up to about 8.2 million.

The airport’s commuter terminal is now being used as an overflow security checkpoint for the main terminal. “And when business improves,” said airport spokesperson JoAnn Jenny, “we can just take down the walls at the ends of the concourses, flip a switch to turn the electricity on and be up and running there.”

    1. Image: the statue of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. is seen unveiled from scaffolding during the soft opening of the Martin Luther King, Jr. Memorial in Washington,


      Dedication of King Memorial postponed

      Updated 11 minutes ago

      8/26/2011 4:17:29 PM +00:00

      Sunday’s dedication ceremony for the new Martin Luther King, Jr. Memorial in Washington, D.C., has been postponed due to the looming threat of Hurricane Irene, organizers announced.

    2. How airlines are responding to Irene

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    4. Flight attendants train for cabin pressures

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Pittsburgh would still like to have a hub, Reich said. “But with airlines shrinking and consolidating, they’ve made the best out of a bad situation. You can’t expect any airport to do it better than Pittsburgh has.”

Like Pittsburgh, airports in St. Louis and Cincinnati have also lost their hub status. After American Airlines bought TWA in 2001, it began downsizing its service at Lambert-St. Louis International Airport until the hub was eliminated entirely in 2010. Cincinnati/Northern Kentucky Airport was Delta Air Line’s second-largest hub until 2005. Since then, there’s been a steady stream of downsizing, prompting the airport to close an entire terminal and some concourses.

Reich also suspects that Cleveland Hopkins International Airport may lose its regional hub status as a result of last year’s $3 billion merger of United Airlines and Continental Airlines.

It’s a road the airport has been down before: Cleveland once served as a hub for both American and United, but now only Continental remains. “Continental is now Cleveland’s third and longest-standing hub,” said airport director Ricky Smith. “So there’s some level of insecurity about the United-Continental merger opening the door for the hub to be scaled back altogether.”

New business for some airports

Where there are losers, of course, there are also winners.

Howard Mann, vice-president of InterVISTAS, a travel and transportation consulting firm, counts airports in Denver, Fort Lauderdale, Fla., and Baltimore among the winners.

Southwest Airlines began service to Denver International Airport in 2006 with 15 daily flights to three destinations. Although Southwest does not use the traditional hub model, preferring a point to point system, the airline has since expanded to 139 daily flights through Denver as of May 2011. Denver is now the fifth largest station for Southwest and has been the fastest growing market in the carrier’s history.

“At Denver International Airport, Terminal 3 now serves Southwest Airlines flights and it is busier than ever with passengers making connections,” said Mann. “In Fort Lauderdale, Spirit Airlines brought more connections to Terminal 4 and totally changed the dynamic there.”

Now that the merger of Southwest and AirTran is official, Mann predicts plenty of new service and nonstop flight offerings at both Denver and Baltimore-Washington International Airport.

“The entire country is facing reduced domestic capacity,” said Mann. “Every airport is working toward getting frequency of flight back. Some just have to work harder than others.”

Harriet Baskas is a frequent contributor to, authors the

“Stuck at the Airport” blog

and is a columnist for You can follow her on



High-tech ‘sniffer’ may speed up airport checks

It could be the answer for every weary air traveler, a high-tech screening system that filters passengers according to risk and scans and “sniffs” them as they walk through, taking a fraction of the time of a usual security check.

Customs and immigration could also be combined at the same screening station, curbing queues and increasing time for that all-important pre-flight browsing or duty-free shopping.

At an annual meeting of airline chiefs in Singapore, the International Air Transport Association (IATA) displayed for the first time a mock-up of a three-channel passenger screening system of the future.

Pre-flight screening categorizes people according to risk, which then channels them into “enhanced,” a polite way of saying highest risk, “normal” and then the least risky, which is “known traveler.”

“It’s the future we envision about 5 to 7 years from now,” said Ken Dunlap, IATA’s global director for security and travel facilitation.

“We’re looking at a way of increasing security where we don’t treat every passenger that has a pair of toe-nail clippers as a potential terrorist. We’re looking for a paradigm that is based on looking for bad people, not only bad things,” he told Reuters on the sidelines of the IATA meeting in a plush casino resort in central Singapore.

Multiple layers of security checks in recent years have greatly increased the time it takes to get on a plane, leading to longer queues, frayed tempers and worries about invasive pat-downs.

IATA envisions technology developments that rapidly screen passengers, depending on the channel they go through, to cover advanced X-ray, shoe scanning, full-body screening, liquid detection and electronic sniffing for traces of explosives.

“What we’d like to have a passenger do is not break stride and walk right through to the checkpoint,” Dunlap said.

He said 2.8 billion people were going to travel by air this year, rising to an estimated 16 billion by 2050. That meant the current screening systems and procedures had to change.

“For a lot of airports it’s a nightmare scenario,” he said, referring to more passengers and slowing screening times.

Some of the technology still needed development, such as high-tech sniffing technology for traces of explosives.

While it exists now, it still needs refining before it can detect traces of dangerous chemicals in passengers walking through a curtain of air, Dunlap said.

“What we’re trying to do is figure out, do there need to be gates, what type of technology needs to go into this.”

Copyright 2011 Thomson Reuters. Click for restrictions.

Gideons spread the word one Bible at a time

Ever met a Gideon? Know anything about their core beliefs? Their religious ambitions? Their impact?

In a world virtually awash with often in-your-face religious groups intent on showing the weary the way, Gideons stand out for being the only ones sung about by The Beatles in “Rocky Raccoon” who still somehow remain divinely unsung.

“Most people are not aware of who we are or what we do, and I think people would be surprised to learn the global impact of the Gideons on behalf of the Lord,” said Jim Seluta, a former Eastman-Kodak traveling salesman who in 1977 became a Christian and a Gideon because of a Bible he’d overlooked hundreds of times.

“That Gideon Bible in the drawer at the Sheraton Inn in Sturbridge, Mass., room 312, saved my life.”

The Gideons are likely the most influential religious movement that is based not in a soaring house of worship but in a former tire manufacturing headquarters.

Bibles, not blimps

Since their founding by Christian traveling businessmen in 1899, Gideons have distributed more than 1.6 billion Bibles to 193 countries in more than 90 languages.

And they’re just getting started.

“We’ll likely reach the 2 billion mark within the next few years,” said Gideon International spokesman Woody Murray, from the old Bridgestone-Firestone headquarters in Nashville, Tenn., the organization has occupied since 2003 (tours available).

Each Bible costs the Gideons about $5.

Operating purely on donations, with no advertising or vast Internet outreach — there’s no Gideon blimp — the Gideon way works precisely because Gideons ignore a golden rule of sound business practices.

“Most marketers are seeking a return on investment that’s far higher than what the Gideons accept,” said Seth Godin, a marketing expert and author of 13 bestselling books. “They are using a different sort of balance sheet, so they can overspend and be delighted with a .1 percent ‘conversion’ rate, if you’ll excuse my use of the word ‘conversion’ in this case.”

    1. Image: the statue of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. is seen unveiled from scaffolding during the soft opening of the Martin Luther King, Jr. Memorial in Washington,


      Dedication of King Memorial postponed

      Sunday’s dedication ceremony for the new Martin Luther King, Jr. Memorial in Washington, D.C., has been postponed due to the looming threat of Hurricane Irene, organizers announced.

    2. How airlines are responding to Irene

    3. 17th person dies at Yosemite National Park

    4. Flight attendants train for cabin pressures

    5. Man reportedly threatened flight crew with glass

The Gideons make no bones that their idea of conversion rates differ vastly from that of a typical accountant.

Bibles and pocket-sized New Testaments are given away to hotels, motels, prisons and hospitals at a rate of 2.5 every second of every day — 1.5 million per week — with the hope that souls are bound to be saved.

‘Take the Bible, not the towels’

They are spiritual staples of nearly every hotel room and the only item guests are invited to steal.

“We don’t mind that at all,” said Murray. “Our statistics show one-quarter of all travelers will read the Bible in the hotel rooms and each Bible has the potential to reach 2,300 people over its six-year life expectancy.”

So Bible theft isn’t a sin?

“Not at all,” Murray said. “We often get notes in the mail with a contribution from someone saying, ‘Sorry, I took the Bible, but it saved my life.’ Take the Bible, not the towels.”

They’ll be replaced. Take the Greenbrier, a luxury resort in White Sulphur Springs, W.Va. “The Greenbrier has Gideon Bibles in every room and keeps a stack handy to replace the 25 to 50 each year that are removed by guests,” said resort spokesperson Lynn Swann.

Gideons, more than 200,000 worldwide with 100,000 auxiliary members (wives and widows), are a multi-denominational organization of Christian believers who must be personally recommended by pastors and who, because of their devotion and faith in Scripture, are deemed worthy.

Founding Gideons — the name pays tribute to the resolute Israelite warrior in the Book of Judges — concluded the most effective way to save souls in those pre-TV days was to put free Bibles where captive audiences might be ready to read.

“This is a lay organization that thrives without ever having had a charismatic leader courting public opinion,” said Mark Noll, a professor of American religious studies at Notre Dame University. “Gideons aren’t flamboyant. They aren’t controversial. You don’t know their positions regarding hot button issues. They are content to let the Bible be the face and voice of the organization.”

Changing lives

Once in the drawer, a Gideon Bible can be ignored by a thousand distracted travelers before it is picked up by just one who will use it to inspire millions.

Mary Kay Beard was on the FBI’s Most Wanted List in 1972 for a multi-state bank heist spree. She credits a Gideon Bible she read in prison for inspiring her to found the Angel Tree organization serving the children and families of inmates in all 50 states and in 45 countries.

Each day brings riveting new tales of redemption from people who entered hotel rooms with intentions of sin or suicide and found solace in a Gideon Bible, Murray said.

“The stories are so moving,” he said. “It’s a constant stream of people who were at the end of their rope and considering suicide when they decided to pick up the Bible.”

Flight canceled? Tricks to get on another plane