I’ve given several speeches lately saying that U.S. airport infrastructure and travel facilitation policies are out of date and need to be changed. A couple of things today tell me I am right.
First is a story about a meeting at New York University featuring many of the nation’s top hotel operators. Their message regarding airport infrastructure and travel facilitation issues is simple: lead, follow, or get out of the way. Our airport investment lags what goes on in much of the rest of the world, and our procedures for getting visas and for getting through immigration and customs once one lands are outdated and too cumbersome (though the administration has made important strides on the visa part of that equation lately). I have pressed this argument that there is a competition going on in the world of travel and we are setting ourselves up to lose. Our airlines and our government do not get this. But it is true, and now it is not just the airport association guy saying it.
Secondly, I was invited to a meeting earlier today with the U.S. Senate Democratic Steering Group. There were 17 Democratic senators in attendance, from all over the country. Much of the discussion was about the highway program, and it was spirited (the highway bill expires at the end of the month). But I also had a chance to talk about the challenges placed by government policies and restrictions on airport infrastructure, and I believe the message resonated. But it is one thing to convince 17 people, no matter how powerful. It is another to actually move national policy; and that is why ACI-NA has embarked on a multi-year campaign to bring the message to the four corners of America. From the economic impact study to the work we are doing to make facilitation policies and procedures more modern (and generate more resources), our goal is to substantially broaden the audience for our message.
These two things – the NYU conference and the meeting with the senators – show we have a long way to go, but they also show the tremendous stakes involved.