While other associations struggle to draw attendees to their events, the National Business Travel Association is holding the third-largest convention in its history this week in San Diego, with 5,400 attendees registered at press time, about 15 percent down from its meeting in Los Angeles last summer. The overriding mood at the meeting, in fact, is growth, as the association shifts to new leadership in both its elected president and full-time, paid executive roles.

Michael W. McCormick, a 20-year travel industry veteran (most recently managing partner of travel industry adviser Hudson Crossing, LLC), will assume the position of executive director and COO in early September, replacing longtime exec Bill Connors, CTC, who left on June 15 for a job as CEO of the Boise Chamber of Commerce.

In a press conference on Monday, McCormick said he is "very excited to get back to my roots after spending more than half my career in business travel." He has been charged by NBTA's board with expanding the association's global presence, adding products and services, and growing membership, with the help of NBTA's new President and CEO Craig Banikowski, whose two-year term kicks in during the convention. Banikowski is director of global travel management at Hilton Hotels Corp.

In other news, NBTA's Groups and Meetings Committee also announced its new chairperson: Tamara Gordon, global travel and meetings manager, UnitedHealth Group. The committee is releasing a new white paper on managing small-meeting spend, and has announced the first dates for its new certification program, the Strategic Meetings Management Certification. Core Week 1 of the two-week program will be offered November 2–6 at Emory University in Atlanta. For more information about the SMMC, visit the NBTA Web site.

NBTA appears to be emerging in a position of strength after months of speculation about a possible merger with the Association of Corporate Travel Executives. Outgoing President and CEO Kevin Maguire chose to clear the air about the merger talks via an e-mail released to members on Sunday, the day the convention opened, stating that the ACTE board has refused to enter the financial due diligence process. There are no discussions between the two groups at this time.