The 50th anniversary of GBTA Convention is just a few months away now. As we continue our look back on the history of the Association over the years, this week’s edition of Throwback Thursday takes a look at the early 2000s.
The beginning of the new century brought 4,700 attendees to NBTA’s 32nd Annual Convention in Los Angeles. Darker days were soon ahead for the travel industry and the United States as a whole. September 11, 2001, was a tragic day that forever changed the United States, global business relations, and corporate travel. Corporate travel managers worked day and night to get travelers home after the Federal Aviation Administration grounded all flights. In an NBTA survey of corporate travel managers, 25 percent of respondents reported that more than 200 travelers from their companies were left stranded.
Although flyers faced cancellations, delays and previously unheard-of airport security checks, once air transportation was reauthorized, a majority of corporations did not suspend travel. Seventy-seven percent of respondents to an NBTA member survey indicated that they had no plans to suspend domestic travel, and 58 percent were planning to only reduce travel for the time being.
NBTA quickly acted on behalf of its members, calling for immediate government aid to the U.S. aviation industry. NBTA also called for the U.S. Department of Transportation, the FAA, and the Security Task Force to quickly increase air transport security, considering the implementation of new security measures the first and most crucial step toward restoring confidence in the aviation system.
Airport security disruptions, budget cutbacks, military action in Iraq and changes in airline rules and services all proved challenging for corporate travel managers in the wake of the September 11 attacks and throughout the early to mid-2000s. Consequently, corporate travel policies were repeatedly rewritten. According to a March 2003 NBTA survey, more than 70 percent of corporate travel managers reported their budgets were flat or had been reduced. “The freedom of selection has been curbed for a lot of business travelers,” said Kevin Iwamoto, NBTA President and CEO (2001-2003). “The profile of the business traveler has forever changed.”
The increasingly global marketplace began to play a significant role in the evolution of corporate travel in the 21st century. More than ever, business travelers were now visiting destinations around the world to represent their companies. To help members adapt to the international shift in corporate travel, NBTA expanded its global offerings to include association affiliates in Canada, Mexico and Asia Pacific and educational and networking events in Australia, Brazil, Canada, China, Italy, Mexico and the UK.
As business travel finally returned to pre-9-11 levels in 2006, passenger security remained a concern for travelers, and NBTA continued to serve its members by voicing support for programs that provide strong security and facilitate business travel. NBTA also lauded the February 2007 implementation of the DHS Traveler Redress Inquiry Program (TRIP), aimed at providing travelers with a single, easy-to-use point of access for travelers seeking to rectify misidentification issues and instances in which they are incorrectly delayed or denied boarding scrutiny at U.S. airports. NBTA offered suggestions to improve the system in October 2007.
NBTA also served as a business travel industry advisor and advocate as the U.S. government took steps to improve programs that process and screen international air travelers. These programs include the implementation and expansion of the Model Ports programs, which seeks to make the process of entering the United States more streamlined and welcoming, and expansion of the visa waiver program to include eight more nations, which enabled travelers from those countries to travel to the United States for business without obtaining a formal visa.
The 2000s also saw some incredible speakers at the annual Conventions including President George Herbert Walker Bush, President Bill Clinton, Al Gore, James Carville and Mary Matlin, CNN anchors and entertainers like Cindy Lauper.
Throughout the decade, NBTA also established its political action committee (PAC) to support pro-business travel legislators on both sides of the aisle, formed an alliance with Meeting Professionals International to encourage cooperation and networking in the meetings and corporate travel industry and celebrated its 35th annual Convention in Dallas.
Stay tuned every Thursday for more throwback posts. Interested in submitting your own memory for a chance to be featured at #GBTA2018 in San Diego? Here’s how. You can also share your Convention memories with us on Twitter using #TBT and tagging @GlobalBTA. Visit the GBTA Blog every Thursday for more throwback posts!