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Association Bisnow
   
April 16, 2008
 
       
 

TRAVEL MAN


 

After death and taxes, getting frustrated by airport security has been added in recent years to the short list of life's guarantees. As COO of the National Business Travel Association, Bill Connors is on a mission to ease travel woes for the 3,000 corporate and individual members of his association. It's the largest travel buyers group on the planet, representing half the Fortune 500 among others, and consisting largely of those who purchase airfare and hotel accommodations for major companies.

 
 

When we met Bill in his Alexandria office, he told us about "Clear," the program that allows registered travelers who undergo background checks by the Department of Homeland Security to pass through airport security in under four minutes. NBTA successfully lobbied for Clear, which costs individuals $128 the first year and is now available in 17 airports nationwide including Reagan and Dulles. Hearing this, we barely resisted the urge to bow down. Connors says his other principal lobbying concerns are the difficulties foreign buyers have in getting US visas and cutting back taxes on hotels, meals, and rental cars.

 

 

1,800 of NBTA's members purchase for big companies like Anheuser Busch and Microsoft, which spend millions on global travel each year. They frequently book hotels and transportation from some of NBTA's 1,200 supplier members, like Amtrak and American Airlines. This makes NBTA trade shows into major marketplaces, where million-dollar deals go down. NBTA also has a yearly convention attended by about 7,000. Since Connors became NBTA head in 2003, its revenue has grown 71% to $12 million and membership is up 40%. Connors attributes the growth to the association's expansion into the meetings market and its adding many government travel buyers to the membership ranks. Connors also says business travel does not decrease significantly with a downturn in the economy.          

 

 

This passionate Red Sox fan has been to 116 baseball stadiums around the country, most recently to see the Mobile Bay Bears in Alabama. He says his wife, who comes with him to every stadium, is a baseball fan. Sounds like he found the perfect way to travel.

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