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NTA Makes Positive Steps Towards OTIA Formation

March 10, 2004

NTA Makes Positive Steps Towards OTIA Formation
Federal legislators were receptive during Grassroots Symposium Capitol Hill visits Feb. 24-25 when NTA members discussed the creation of an Office of Traveler Impact Assessment with the Department of Homeland Security.

NTA initiated the idea of creating the OTIA last year, then sought other travel industry support. The creation of the special office, meant to offer input on the impact threat level changes and other government actions have on travel and tourism, was the subject of an industry panel during Symposium that helped prime participants for their Hill visits. Discussing the critical need for the travel industry to have a voice within the Department of Homeland Security were panelists Hank Phillips, CTP, president of NTA; Paul Ruden, senior vice president for legal and industry affairs for the American Society of Travel Agents; Pete Pantuso, president and CEO of the American Bus Association; and Michael Palmer, executive director of the Student Youth Travel Association of North America.

After the session, NTA members took to Capitol Hill to press for Congressional support.

"I felt a real openness and a feeling that they knew we had the right idea," said NTA Vice Chairman Ann Thomas, CTP, who is owner/manager of Western Leisure LLC in Reno, Nev. Thomas met with Rep. Jim Gibbons (R-Nev.), Rep. Jon Porter (R-Nev.) and Sen. John Ensign (R-Nev.), and aides for Rep. Shelley Berkley (D-Nev.) and Sen. Harry Reid (D-Nev.)

Since Symposium, Gibbons, as well as Rep. Robert Simmons (R-Conn.) have sent letters urging the creation of the OTIA to Department of Homeland Security Secretary Tom Ridge. Sen. Chris Dodd (D-Conn.) is expected to press Ridge on OTIA in the next few weeks, and other Congressional offices have requested additional information on the issue from NTA.

Timing for the push for OTIA is better now than it was a year ago, Phillips said.

"Security issues were No. 1 priority a year ago, and rightfully so," Phillips said. "Now, as this new era of security is taking root, there’s more of a comfort level for us and for our legislators to discuss the great need for dialogue within the Department of Homeland Security with respect to travelers and the travel industry. I’m encouraged by the response we’ve received."

For more information, contact NTA’s Goverment Relations department at 859-266-4444.

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