Travel Blues

Posted May 30, 2008 at 5:49pm

When the Travel Industry Association last week released a study showing that travelers are avoiding the not-so-friendly skies because it’s a pain in the neck to fly, it was just the beginning of what could become a tiff between airlines and the rest of the travel industry.

[IMGCAP(1)]“Based on the hassle factor alone, millions of travelers are choosing to avoid taking trips,” said Geoff Freeman, TIA’s senior vice president for public affairs and government relations. “As we’ve followed the debate in Washington … it’s always about the aviation community and the government. Because of that we haven’t seen the political will to make tough decisions and move forward.”

TIA will step up the pressure on lawmakers, calling for a modernized air traffic control system and programs to allow frequent fliers to speed through security checkpoints.

In addition, the group is convening what it bills as an “emergency summit” on June 17 with the heads of major travel associations — from such sectors as hotels, restaurants, airlines and pilots — to come up with additional legislative goals.

The group’s survey found that would-be travelers skipped out on 41 million trips in the past 12 months, costing the U.S. economy more than $26 billion.

In a statement in response to TIA, Air Transportation Association President and CEO James May said, “Just six months ago, TIA proposed raising revenue through a tax on passengers, an unsuitable solution to an already overtaxed industry. We hope that we can work cooperatively with TIA to reduce, not raise, the cost of travel.”

Association Brawl. Usually, trade organizations with similar interests band together. Not in the case of the National Athletic Trainers’ Association and the American Physical Therapy Association. Simmering tensions between the two groups has turned into a legal battle after the trainers’ association accused the physical therapists of anti-competitive activities. One of Trainers’ major demands: stop all federal and state lobbying.

“Permanently refrain from defining and communicating to regulators, legislators, and employers what athletic trainers and NATA members are legally qualified to do, as such matters are left to national association, accredited certification bodies, and state,” the trainers’ association wrote in a nine-point missive late last year.

Both groups have hired guns in Washington. The trainers’ association has relied on Capitol Associates’ William Finerfrock since 2004 to lobby on its behalf. In April, the trade association registered itself for the first time to lobby on its issues.

The physical therapists also have long had Washington representation. Besides their own in-house team, they contract with Patrick Cooney of the Federal Group and GOP lobbying powerhouse Fierce, Isakowitz & Blalock.

The lobbying issue “puzzled us a great deal,” said Dave Mason, vice president of government affairs at APTA. “Obviously they’ve been actively involved at both the federal and state level, as have we, as have all the other health care professions. I don’t really know what they were trying to do. It’s part of what our membership expects of us.”

Still, not all love is lost between the two groups. Both are members of the National Coalition for Promoting Physical Activity, Mason said.

In Pursuit of a Better Image. The American League of Lobbyists, the organization that has the unenviable task of trying to burnish a shinier image for K Street, is holding its annual Capitol PurSuit Drive this week in the Rayburn House Office Building.

Along with Men’s Wearhouse, ALL will collected men’s and women’s business attire in the Rayburn foyer from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m. June 4. Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) and Reps. Ron Kind (D-Wis.) and Loretta Sanchez (D-Calif.) are expected to attend.

K Street Moves. As ethanol continues to ratchet higher in the energy debate, the Renewable Fuels Association added Geoff Cooper as its director of research. Cooper was formerly with the National Corn Growers Association, where he served as director of ethanol.

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