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Crumbling U.S. Infrastructure Danger to Hotel Business

Tuesday, July 01, 2014
Glenn Haussman
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So what can you do about it? Well some top industry executives share what they think you can do to save our transportation system so people can get to your hotel.

Tired of not getting to your destination on time? Well, so is the U.S. Travel Association, who also think nation’s crumbling infrastructure is damaging the nation’s overall economy. Equally important, it’s making people so frustrated they’re staying home rather than travel for work or leisure. That’s sucking billions of dollars out of the economy and that’s hurting the bottom line of hotel companies and ownership groups.

So the USTA along with Building America's Future have announced a new partnership to publicize a co-branded "I'm Stuck" app to provide millions of American travelers with a direct line to Congress to voice their concerns about our nation's deteriorating transportation infrastructure and the impending depletion of the Highway Trust Fund, which is about to run out of funding. So when you’re stuck in traffic, the app enables you to send an email directly to your specific Senators and Congressional representative encouraging them to do something about this exploding issue.

In a conference call this morning Jim Abrahamson, National Chair, U.S. Travel Association and Chief Executive Officer, Interstate Hotels & Resorts and Ed Rendell, Former Pennsylvania Governor and Co-Chair, Building America's Future urged the general public to help goose politicians to get our government to actually do something on this critical issue.

Shockingly – that’s sarcasm folks – the government seems unwilling or unable to do something about this issue, and unless they act immediately, The Highway Trust Fund, which is the nation's main source of funding for roads, bridges, and highways, is set to run out of money in August. That is, unless Congress does something about it. And if they don’t that’ll scrub thousands of projects across the country that will result in the further deterioration of our nation’s roads, airports and rail infrastructure. Pathetic.

“This is imperiling global competitiveness and job growth, an important part of our economic future and it is not acceptable for a country like the U.S. Particularly when we see infrastructure investments in other countries. We must address this and do it now,” said Abrahamson.

Side note: I was in China last week and never saw more road construction than when I was in Beijing and Shanghai.

“Every poll taken finds people are aware of the deteriorating infrastructure and they want action. We need to bring this home dramatically and as graphically as we can. People know there is a cost of investing and they are OK with that. The gas tax has not been raised in 18 years and is now down to 11 cents [per gallon] in buying power now,” explained Rendell. “Traffic is causing billions in losses to our GDP.”

Another problem not mentioned on the conference call is that during the last two decades cars have become a lot more fuel efficient. Therefore people are driving many more miles and using less gas, which causes more wear and tear on highways and bridges.

Worse yet, in a new survey from the U.S. Travel Association, the results uncovered that air travel hassles are taking their toll on the broader economy. Passengers' frustration with the flying experience resulted in 38 million avoided domestic plane trips in 2013, said the survey. Although air travel has steadily increased since the recession, 38 million trips is a loss equal to eight percent of current air travel demand.

That suppressed activity had a significant downstream effect on travel-related businesses and the overall economy, including spending losses of:

• $9.5 billion on airfare
• $5.8 billion on hotels
• $5.7 billion on recreation
• $3.4 billion on food services
• $2.8 billion on car rentals

In his blog on LinkedIn today, President and CEO of Marriott International Arne Sorenson also called for Americans to make their Congressional representatives do something about this problem. “America invests far fewer resources in transportation infrastructure than economic competitors like Canada and China. Having been on a high-speed train in China that smoothly goes 200 miles an hour, I am convinced that if we don’t fix America’s infrastructure, it will erode our global competitiveness. Change will only come with leadership from our elected leaders and action from Congress,” Sorenson wrote.

“This app combined with a sustained media campaign will make it impossible for lawmakers to avoid this issue. We must tell policy makers about the state of the journey,” said Abrahamson. U.S. Travel stepped up to engage in this issue and we recognize we are a new voice at the debate table but we are driven by necessity as this issue impedes our industry’s growth.”

The mobile "I'm Stuck" app allows constituents to send a message directly to their Congressional representatives and senators whenever they are stuck in traffic on the highway, delayed on a bus or train, or sitting on the tarmac. Building America's Future originally released the app in 2013 but the new partnership with U.S. Travel extends the app broadly to the travel industry and, through U.S. Travel's membership, to millions of additional American travelers.

The app empowers Americans constantly suffering from prolonged commutes and travel delays by giving them a voice to advocate for increased investment in the future of America's infrastructure. Users can show elected officials why this is important by sending them a photo from wherever they are stuck. The new app also has specific messages for travelers stuck in highway traffic, urging Congress to act on the Highway Trust Fund.

The app can be downloaded here and is available for both the iPhone and Android phone.

To download the app for Android go here: https://play.google.com/store/apps/details?id=com.kiwi.stuck&hl=en
To download the app through iTunes go here:
https://itunes.apple.com/us/app/im-stuck/id657757666?mt=8&ign-mpt=uo%3D4
Credit
Glenn Haussman    Glenn Haussman
Editor in Chief
Hotel Interactive, Inc.

Bio: Glenn Haussman is Hotel Interactive's Editor-In-Chief, where he manages all editorial content for the hotel industry’s leading online information resource. In addition to publishing the daily magazine, he hosts a weekly on demand radio shows and develops educational content for the company’s BITAC and HI Connect Design ...
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