Travel groups form alliance

The Travel Business Roundtable (TBR) and the Travel Industry Association of America (TIA) yesterday announced a new lobbying alliance.

Under the agreement, TBR, which consists of executives from hotel chains, airlines, and other travel-related industries, will take over lobbying on behalf of the industry as TIA concentrates on educational and public-relations efforts.

TIA’s members include AAA, Amtrak, Greyhound, Hilton Hotels and a number of regional travel groups.

Charles Merin, a managing director at BKSH & Associates and lobbyist for TBR, will lead the lobbying effort.

TBR paid Merin and BKSH $240,000 last year to lobby on issues that include the use of biometric scanning technology on travel visas, tax deductions for business meals and the federal highway bill.

As part of the agreement, two TIA board members will join TBR’s board and vice versa.

Roger Dow, president and CEO of TIA, said that, in visiting offices on Capitol Hill, a common question was, “Which T are you? TIA or TBR?”

The new alliance will help avoid duplicating lobbying efforts and give the industry “one voice,” he said.
Jonathan Tisch, chairman of Loews Hotels and of TBR, said the new alliance will “raise the visibility of the travel and tourism industry.”

The two also said, however, that there are no plans to increase the lobbying budget.

TIA spent a relatively modest $63,000 to lobby in the first half of 2004, the last report available through public records.

Neither group is a big political contributor but instead relies on its “one-on-one relationships” with members of Congress, Dow said.

The travel industry is also represented by a number of other groups, such as the American Hotel and Lodging Association, which Merin also represents, and individual companies.