The National Business Travel Association
made us sit up and take notice the other day when it asked the Bush
administration to begin a dialogue with the travel industry as it
draws up contingency plans for a possible avian flu pandemic.
In outlining his
ambitious plan to prepare for an avian flu epidemic, President Bush
called for the development of emergency plans at the federal, state
and local level. He also called for private sector
NBTA, in an
unexpected response, proposed a travel industry working group that
would help educate travelers and minimize the negative economic
Given the global
reaction -- or overreaction -- to the SARS outbreak in Asia in
2003, its not hard to imagine that even the appearance of a serious
global pandemic of avian flu could give rise to panic, quarantines
and travel restrictions.
That alone is
reason enough for the travel industry to have an open channel of
communication with the federal and local officials who would be
coordinating the governments response.
Of course, we could
be getting ahead of ourselves. Our preferred scenario, obviously,
is for this whole avian flu scare to blow over, which could
And its by no means certain
that an outbreak of avian flu, if it happens, will be as
devastating as the great influenza epidemic of 1918-1919, which is
everybodys worst nightmare. In a pandemic of those proportions,
thousands of travel and other businesses may have no choice but to
hunker down and wait it out.
NBTA jumped out in
front of this issue, surprising some industry groups, but garnering
endorsements from the Travel Industry Association and
We would urge any
organization thats on the fence to support the NBTA initiative. The
travel and tourism industry shouldnt forego any opportunity to sit
down with the feds and talk about planning for the future, even on
a topic as grim as this.
details on this article, see "NBTA proposes initiative to combat avian flu
Proudly, the travel industry reported
recently that it supports 7.3 million jobs, accounting for 5.6% of
the nations nonfarm employment, and generating expenditures on
transportation, lodging, food and other items of about $600 billion
-- in round numbers.
These big round
numbers were included in a joint report by the Travel Industry
Association and the U.S. Chamber of Commerce.
The report is one
in a series of statistical tabulations designed to show the
contribution of travel and tourism to the national economy and the
economies of the states. It will be used by planners, politicians,
lobbyists, and others for months.
For most of us,
however, it will be largely forgotten before the 2006 edition comes
If you had to pick
one number or one fact to remember from this mountain of data, you
might be hard-pressed to pick something that is truly memorable,
truly important, truly cool enough to drop into the middle of a
sagging conversation. The grand sum of $600 billion might seem like
a good one, but you might consider this: that $600 billion in
retail expenditures generates $100 billion in federal, state and
local taxes -- in round numbers.
Thats a bit over
16% and -- in round numbers -about half of it is