*The following speech was delivered today at GBTA Convention 2016.*
The world is a dangerous place. Using our best efforts as a society, we try to protect all of our global citizens from acts of terrorism. But in a world of 7.3 billion people, we will never fully succeed despite all of our best efforts. When these horrific events occur, we must never forget the lives that are needlessly, senselessly lost in this manner.
And for all of us in the travel industry, we feel a deep sense of ownership when those lives are violently taken in our airports, our skies and places we have all traveled to – both for business and for leisure. Please join me in a moment of silence to honor those lives lost in Paris, in Brussels, in Istanbul, in Nice, in our Convention city from last year, Orlando – and all victims of terrorism.
As we gather here together today in Denver, you might ask…
What can we do differently?
What can we do better?
How can I help?
The answers lie within all of us. We can choose the path of acceptance and complacency – or take action and re-double our efforts to fight for the industry that we all know, love and rely on. Business travel drives sustained business growth. This industry – and all of you – drive the success of every other industry.
The travel industry is the world’s largest employer. We put the sharing in the sharing economy. We bring everyone face-to-face. All of us here along with all of our colleagues must work with our governments to keep us safe and secure by working better, working smarter and removing the barriers that exist to winning the war against travel terrorism both here and abroad.
It starts with better policies and proper funding. Although short-term extensions can show signs of progress, we must continue our fight in Congress for consensus on a proper, long term funding for the FAA, the agency responsible for the safety of our skies.
Congress must follow the leadership of business travel champions like Senator Thune and Representative Katko and pass the funding that is long overdue. And as for security, we must support Administrator Neffenger’s efforts to overhaul TSA and build a more efficient, more effective organization that includes the broad expansion of programs like PreCheck and Global Entry.
We must demand that TSA is allowed to expand the private sector partners that would enroll all of your business travelers that are low risk and need to move through the system more efficiently. This allows more resources to focus on inexperienced and higher risk travelers. It also helps to keep travelers from waiting in unsecure, public areas at the airport where the risk increases for all of us.
But that is just a part of the challenge. GBTA has pushed hard to drive better government inter-agency cooperation in areas like in-flight cyber security and intelligence data. We must win the war in the air, on the ground and throughout the entire travel system.
Security is first and foremost. But this part of the experience for any business traveler can be – and must be – a much better one. And because our industry drives the economic success of every other industry, we must be smart about the policies we enact – and the actions we take – as they also have a profound effect on our global economy.
GBTA has been sensing a growing need for reform among our members. In fact last year, I spoke on this very issue. We told you we would solicit your thoughts and opinions on industry consolidation, technology, corporate risk and responsibility. With the full participation of our committees, we issued the Rules of the Road, a declaration of the needs of the business travel industry.
It is our goal to support an open and honest dialogue of what the buyers and sellers of travel need to ensure safe, sustainable competition and clear communication throughout the industry. We are asking you to adopt these principles as a unified industry.
This is what we are doing with our elected leaders. We are telling them that as they consider legislative, tax and regulatory actions, they should look closely to see if they are helping or hurting the industry. We announced the Rules of the Road on Capitol Hill in May and received an overwhelmingly positive response from key Members of Congress.
We brought our voice to Washington.
The World Today
But no matter how hard we work and how much we prepare, the world continues to be an unpredictable and unbalanced place. Last month, the people of the United Kingdom caught us all by surprise by taking the off-ramp called Brexit and voting to leave the European Union. The vote sent shockwaves throughout the global economy.
No one is certain what this will mean for business travel, but rest assured GBTA will continue to advocate for the same principles in Europe it holds true here in the U.S. We must ensure business travelers move freely so that business is not disrupted. Programs like the Visa Waiver Exemption must continue. This program keeps commerce flowing and is an important security tool for the world.
I thank all of you for not just being a part of – but taking personal ownership in the success of the business travel industry. We are all an important part of the most vibrant, most dynamic, most compassionate industry in the world. Yes, the world is a challenging and sometimes dangerous place. But it is our job to look after it… together.
Thank you and have a great Convention!