The travel industry is heading into the future at full speed.
The U.S. Travel Association convened its first-ever Future of Travel Mobility summit. The event took place in Washington, D.C., and virtually brought together industry leaders, policymakers and innovators who spoke on how to develop seamless, sustainable and secure travel.
As the Biden administration and Congress weigh the measures of the elusive infrastructure bill, the message from the travel industry was loud and clear: The time is now to build cleaner, safer and more secure ways to travel and America should lead the way.
“These conversations are so important because we see that new, innovative transportation solutions are more than a customer preference — they are a necessity as we look ahead to the future of our industry,” said U.S. Travel Association president and CEO Roger Dow. “This is an opportunity to build a travel industry that is stronger, more modern and more globally competitive than ever before.”
Research shows that Americans are on board with innovation but are planning fewer trips in the future. New research from Ipsos and the U.S. Travel Association found that one in four (24%) Americans plan to take fewer leisure trips than they did prior to the pandemic, and business travelers are also planning to be on the road less with two in five saying they will travel less over the next two years.
What is keeping people home? Ipsos found that travel would only increase if Americans had access to more sustainable, seamless, secure and modern travel options, including electric vehicles; airlines and fuels that produced fewer carbon emissions; improved Transportation Security Administration screening; and more efficient transportation technologies such as hyperloops or supersonic aircraft.
Panel discussions touched on a broad range of subjects, but sustainability and innovation were at the forefront of every conversation. Guests included members of the Biden administration, lawmakers from Capitol Hill, airline CEOs and innovators whose companies are readying for a new travel ecosystem.
The list of speakers and panelists included U.S. Secretary of Transportation Pete Buttigieg, U.S. Secretary of Homeland Security Alejandro Mayorkas, U.S. Sen. Shelley Moore Capito, R-W.Va., U.S. Rep. Debbie Dingell, D-Mich., U.S. Rep. John Katko, R-N.Y., and Austin Brown, Senior Director for Transportation Emissions, White House Office of Domestic Climate Policy.
Delta Air Lines CEO Ed Bastian joined Dow for a lunchtime fireside chat, and Mark Reuss, president of General Motors Co., gave a lengthy interview on the future of the auto industry and an electrified future for automakers.
Josh Giegel, CEO and co-founder of Virgin Hyperloop, explained how this new tech could streamline intercity travel, reducing the amount of time people will need to get through crowded travel corridors such as Washington, D.C., to New York City.
Blake Scholl, founder and CEO of Boom Supersonic, is ready to supercharge the skies with sleek planes that shave hours off travel between international hubs around the world, and JoeBen Bevirt, founder and CEO of Joby Aviation wants to make short connections between destinations a breeze with short-range, battery-powered aircraft.
Key takeaways of the Future or Travel Mobility summit framed the pandemic as a reset.
"The pandemic can be a portal," said Julia Cosgrove, editor in chief at AFar. "We can reset and make travel more sustainable and secure."
Industry leaders and some lawmakers believe that now is the time for biometrics, that the tech is highly accurate--more so than humans and that we can refine it to be even better.
Leaders also agreed that electric vehicles are the way of the future. The biggest barrier is "range anxiety," Range anxiety, however, GM announced that it is giving 40,000 chargers to dealers around the country, and there was broad agreement that an EV charging network was an infrastructure priority in the country.
"The infrastructure we build today will determine if we travel sustainably for decades to come, said Virgin's Giegel.
Buttigieg noted that the time is now to make changes. "The 2020s will be characterized by changes that are swift and profound," he said.
These meaningful discussions on the path forward to an innovative future are key to rebuilding the economy and creating a more sustainable travel industry.
“U.S. Travel is proud to bring so many incredibly relevant industry and government leaders together for this critical discussion across the travel, transportation and technology sectors," said U.S. Travel Association executive vice president of public affairs and policy Tori Emerson Barnes. "It is imperative that we continue to collaborate to drive the necessary policy outcomes and bring new ideas to the forefront to benefit the U.S. economy and travelers alike."
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