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Travel execs see red over Obama’s call to go green


July 30, 2010 - 0 Comments

The Los Angeles Times recently ran an article by Hugo Martín about the travel industry. Specifically, the travel industry’s response to a recent directive issued by the Obama administration calling for government employees to commute and travel less.

How did they feel about it? No, sir, they didn’t like it.

And we can understand why. The National Business Travel Association has members from the automotive, transportation, hospitality and other industries that would be negatively impacted if government employees, corporate executives, sales people and other business travelers decided to put down their passports, stick their suitcases in the closet and stay in their offices. As an association, you need to look out for the combined business interests of your members, and the members of the NBTA would lose business and money should road warriors become desk warriors.

In a press release that was issued by the NBTA in response to the administration’s calls for reduced government travel, Michael W. McCormick, Executive Director and COO of NBTA, stated, “President Obama’s recent statements calling for a reduction in government travel are troubling…they are part of a pattern of negative and misguided comments from the Administration that hurt the travel industry at an incredibly challenging time…they seem to imply that cutting travel is the goal.”

Our question is, why shouldn’t the federal government’s goal be cutting travel? In these “incredibly challenging times,” the federal government is faced with increasing and almost unfathomable amounts of national debt and in an unenviable position of trying to make government operate more effectively, inexpensively and efficiently. In addition, the Obama Administration is facing pressure to set a precedent for the rest of the country, and globe, by making the government greener.

By discouraging government travel and working to reduce the unnecessary globe-trotting of executives from companies that took government bailout dollars, the Obama Administration is cutting the amount of taxpayer money being put towards airfare (including those fun baggage fees, aisle seat fees, peanut fees, etc.), hotel rooms, meals and per diem. The resulting decrease in air and car travel will also go a long way towards shrinking the federal government’s carbon footprint and helping the environment.

We understand that face-to-face communication is important in the business environment. It helps encourage collaboration and innovation in the public and private sectors. However, this need to hop in a cab to the airport, skip through the terminal, jump on a plane and shake someone’s hand to effectively do business is antiquated. With video teleconferencing (VTC) solutions and unified communications, the ability to collaborate with people face-to-face is no longer limited to individuals in the same room.

By discouraging travel by government employees and corporate executives from companies that accepted bail-out dollars and instead embracing new technology to interact, all we lose is the handshake. Travel costs will decrease and save taxpayer money and less pollutants will enter our atmosphere and destroy the Earth. Also, these once road-warriors will be able to take all of the time they wasted in line at customs, preparing to go through security, sitting on a plane and staring at their watch waiting for connections and spend it on doing their jobs, or playing with their kids. That means a happier, healthier and more productive workforce.

VTC solutions and new unified communication technologies are breaking down the walls between the federal government, a greener planet and a cheaper, more productive workforce. We say, “bravo,” to the Obama Administration for taking a stand for responsible government. And to the NBTA we say, “don’t be hatin’ on the Administration for trying to drive positive change.” There will always be a need for some business travel, but thanks to new technology, it’s no longer the only option.

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