By David Jones

WASHINGTON -- National Business Travel Association executive director Norm Sherlock said he expects a strong interest from corporate travel agencies to join the organization following the landmark vote at last month's convention in St. Louis.

Travel managers, by a margin of more than 80%, voted last month to allow travel agents into NBTA, the nation's largest group representing the business travel industry. Sherlock said that, of the agencies who participated in this year's convention, most indicated they plan to join the organization.

"We have 26 travel agencies of varying size and varying focus that were at the convention this year," he said. "Many if not all of them will want to take out multiple memberships."

Multiple memberships are designed for companies with several subsidiaries, such as multinational companies. The multiple membership allows a company to take out a membership for a one-time fee of $1,260, after which individuals within the company can apply for memberships for $310 in the first year and then $260 in succeeding years. Many travel managers who work for large companies have multiple memberships because many companies have different travel managers for different subsidiaries.

Sherlock said he did not perceive any lingering tension between travel managers and travel agents, as evidenced by the fact that more than 80% of travel managers voted to let agents in the organization. However, many travel agents at the conference did speak of residual feelings of resentment on the part of some travel managers.

NBTA delegates voted several times before to allow travel agents into the organization and each time failed to get the required two-thirds majority to change its bylaws. Sherlock said the key to this year's vote was the decision by NBTA's board to push the admittance of agents. "Unquestionably, the deciding factor was the board of directors taking a firm position in recommending its adoption to the membership and actually doing a very strong job of selling the reasons why it made sense," he said.

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