If you're not in a cave somewhere, you're probably already fully aware that today is election day in the U.S., and we encourage all of you registered voters to go out and perform your civic duty. As part of our election coverage, we're continuing the conversation we started yesterday with our readers, and presenting the rest of contributing editor Christoper Elliott's "Dear Mr. President..." essay from our November/December issue of Traveler. In the essay, Elliott outlined a series of travel-related items that are likely to be on the new president's agenda, and we're taking this opportunity to let our readers discuss how they'd like to see them sorted out.
The post-9/11 recovery made by the domestic airline industry was short-lived. High energy prices have pushed a poorly managed industry to the brink of yet another wave of bankruptcies. Passengers now feel the IRS offers better customer service; routes are being slashed; additional fees are now being tacked on for everything from bags to pillows. Some people are talking re-regulation. Should the airlines be held accountable for their customer service shortcomings with the passing of a passengers' bill of rights? Or should the next President focus on the health of the airline industry, ensuring that government policies allow air carriers an unobstructed path to profitability? And what about the nation's antiquated air-traffic control system? Should making the necessary upgrades be a top priority?
Since the 2004 election, the government has
imposed a series of new requirements for air travelers, including a ban
on liquids and gels, plus new passport and ID rules - causing many
passengers to opt to stay home. The travel industry is pushing the
government to reduce the hassle factor at borders and checkpoints, and
the Travel Industry Association of America has launched an ad campaign
to persuade candidates to address these problems. Some changes are on
the horizon, including more efficient airport screening and the
loosening of visa requirements for some visitors. What is the
appropriate balance between security and unimpeded travel? Should
visitors to the United States be fingerprinted and eye-scanned? Do
liquid-and-gel bans at airports work, or are they nothing more than
"window-dressing," meant to make passengers feel safer? Do "no-fly" and
watch lists protect travelers-or needlessly detain thousands of
The U.S. government currently maintains limitations on travel to several countries. Many travelers disagree with this policy and would like the new President to relax the travel restrictions to Cuba and allow Americans to spend more time in North Korea. While this might not be likely for North Korea, there is some speculation that the recent leadership change in Cuba could lead to a loosening of U.S. travel rules. David Guggenheim, a Cuba expert and president of 1planet1ocean, a conservative group based in Washington, D.C., believes that opening Cuba to America would be a good thing, saying that, "Without formal diplomatic relations, visitors to Cuba become ambassadors." Do you agree? Does travel feed a repressive government or promote democracy?
THE BOTTOM LINE
Just how important are the needs of travelers to the new President? Not very, experts say. However this year several issues have resonated with a broader population. And with travel being a critical part of the American economic engine, the new President's inevitable focus on the economy may be just what we need.
What do you think? Share your thoughts with us in the comments below.
Photo: Stephen Quinn