Travelers bugged by post-9/11 airport security rules

Business travelers don’t like to take off their shoes at the airport.

This is one thing nearly 30 percent of business travel agents wish they could change in airport security, according to Travel Leaders Fall Travel Trend Survey released today. About 450 travel owners, managers and frontline travel agents were surveyed in August to find out what bugs them, and travelers, most about airport security rules – most of which were instituted after the Sept. 11, 2001 attacks on the U.S.

As the 10-year anniversary of the Sept. 11 attacks on the U.S. draws near, travel industry leaders reflect on how that event changed the way they do business.

Business travel agents would eliminate the airport security rules limiting liquids in carry-on bags, while leisure travel agents would change the extensive pat-down procedures.

“It was quite interesting for us to see how Travel Leaders’ business and leisure travel agents differ on what they like least about airport security measures,” said Roger E. Block, President of Travel Leaders Franchise Group. “The extensive coverage given to full-body scanners apparently isn’t what clients are discussing most frequently with their travel professional.”

In fact, many leisure travel agents wouldn’t change a thing regarding security measures, Block said.

The U.S. Travel Association has a different take on airport security. The price of security has come at the cost of efficiency and billions of dollars are being lost in the travel industry every day, said Roger Dow, U.S. Travel Association president and CEO.

Dow reflected on the changes in airport security since the 9/11 attacks and how increased, and sometimes cumbersome, security measures at U.S. airports are among the cited reasons why international travelers avoid coming to the U.S, he said. In the past 10 years, global travel has increased by 40 percent. In the U.S. it has increased by just 2 percent, he said.

“Despite more travelers worldwide, our slice of the pie shrunk,” Dow said. “We have referred to this as lost decade.”

In the moments after the attack, everything in the travel industry changed, he said.

“We were literally on our knees within one hour of the attack,” he said.

The government made many changes, layer upon layer, which has had a cumulative effect, he said.

“No industry was more affected than travel,” he said.

As the industry looks forward in the next decade there has to be an effort to make up for the losses and keep step with other country’s gains, he said.

“We’ve lost visitors, travelers and jobs,” he said

The U.S. Travel Association is working with TSA to reduce travel wait time at airports; decrease the time it takes to get a Visa, especially for visitors from India and China; decrease the amount of time it takes to get through customs; and encourage airports to adopt a trusted traveler program, where frequent travelers can use separate security lines because extensive background on them has already been completed.

Leisure travel has been more resilient in the decade since 9/11, with leisure travel volume increasing 17 percent since 2000, despite a few years of negative growth. The same is true in Colorado Springs, where 85 percent of the visitors drive in and 15 percent of visitors fly in, said Doug Price, Colorado Springs Convention and Visitors Bureau president and CEO. And, Colorado remains the fifth most visited state in the U.S.

“Our society has a wonderlust for travel,” Price said. “Vacations are sacred.”

The leisure travel growth underscores the importance of travel to Americans. Slow but steady growth of about 2 percent annually is expected through 2014.

“The decade following 9/11 has seen significant changes in the way Americans, and those who visit America, travel, Dow said.

“We must continue keeping travelers safe with the highest level of security, but we must incorporate principles that improve facilitation and encourage travel,” he said.

By the way, leisure travelers don’t like to take off their shoes in the airport either, according to the Travel Leads survey.