I'll have a Bailout with a Beer, Please

A press release just crossed my screen: Sam Gilliland, the chair and chief executive officer of Sabre Holdings and chair of the Economic Sustainability Subcommittee of the U.S. Travel and Tourism Advisory Board, urged Congress and the administration to take immediate action help the struggling travel and tourism industry, in testimony delivered to the U.S. Senate Subcommittee on Competitiveness, Innovation, and Export Promotion.

"The situation is pretty bleak," Gilliland said, adding that "Year-on-year industry trends indicate that corporate domestic air travel and hotel stays are down nearly 20 percent, with airfares and price of hotel stays down 7 percent. Domestic leisure travel is down by almost 5 percent with average leisure fares down 10 percent. This dramatic fall in demand is bad news for the industry, the legions of people who work in it, and both the U.S. and global economies."

Why is this happening? In a recent Environmental Protection poll, more than half of the respondents said they were not traveling to trade shows this year because of budget cuts. Gilliland has another take on this: "Recent attention on what the Treasury Department deems 'luxury' and 'excessive' in business travel has prompted companies all over the U.S to cut back and in some cases eliminate business travel altogether for fear of being criticized." (Is that what you think?)

The bright spot is that Gilliland didn't ask for a billion dollars. But what he asked for may be harder to get … at least quickly. He "ordered" up

  • a comprehensive U.S. energy policy that calls for viable fuel competition and sustainable energy,
  • a greenhouse gas reduction policy that is shared fairly across all industries,
  • an upgrade of 40-year-old radar systems now, and
  • an endorsement of the U.S. Travel Association’s model guidelines from the Treasury Department.

Closer to home, the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency Region 6 invited me to a "local" conference. "We are confident that even in the current economic situation, attendance at the conference will approach or exceed the 7,000 registered attendees for the 2008 Brownfields Conference," the letter stated.

How can the agency be confident? No one else seems to be. But I like that the conference is in New Orleans. Maybe I can drive over, make some good contacts, and still stay within budget. If we can, where we can, we need to try to work ourselves out of this economic depression.

Posted by L.K. Williams, EPonline on May 14, 2009