Voters want a “travel candidate” for president in 2008 because political issues like the Iraq War and illegal immigration have already been “pounded to death,” travel industry executives insisted during a conference call with reporters Monday.
At the start of one of the busiest travel weeks of the year, representatives of the Travel Industry Association (TIA), National Tour Association (NTA) and Travel Business Roundtable held the conference call to trot out South Carolina and Florida survey data showing that travel issues are important to voters.
Both tourism-dependent states are holding presidential primaries in January.
Speakers on the call said survey respondents felt stung by a summer of travel delays and a 17 percent decline in overseas visitation to the United States since Sept. 11, 2001, and that government can do far more to improve the travel system while enhancing security in the process.
“They want a candidate who recognizes that long lines do not make us more secure and that far more can be done to make the travel experience efficient,” said Roger Dow, TIA president and CEO.
But the Transportation Security Administration (TSA), the federal agency running airport security checkpoints, said aircraft arriving late is the biggest single cause of flight delays. Late aircraft account for nearly 40 percent of flight delays, while security delays account for only 2 percent.
Wait times at Tri-Cities Regional Airport between 6 and 8 a.m. on Wednesdays after Oct. 22 averaged only three minutes, according to the TSA.
Still, the industry group representatives said they are pushing legislation that would create a first-ever substantial U.S. promotion program aimed at international travelers and want presidential candidates willing to make travel issues a priority.
Among their survey’s key findings:
•Eight of 10 voters in both Republican and Democratic primaries in each state said travel is important to their lives and the lives of their families.
•Some 70 percent of those surveyed said it is possible to reduce wait times and still maintain the same level of security at airports.
•Some 85 percent of respondents said it is important to develop and implement a newer air traffic control system.
•Three-fifths of likely voters in the surveys felt 2008 presidential candidates have not adequately addressed issues surrounding travel and tourism, and between one-third and one-half in both states would be more likely to vote for a candidate who does.
“Clearly, Americans want dialogue on these issues,” said NTA President Lisa Simon. “Travelers are confused about passport requirements and concerned about air security procedures. America’s image abroad is at an all-time low.”
Three hundred Democratic and GOP primary voters in both states were surveyed between Oct. 24-29.
For more go to www.tia.org.