National Business Travel Association's new executive director and COO, Mike McCormick, certainly has his work cut out for him. His appointment comes at a time when the business travel industry faces some of the toughest economic challenges in decades. McCormick joins the association from travel industry consultancy Hudson Crossing LLC, where he was founder and managing partner.

We caught up with him just 45 days into his new role to hear about his transition and the association's plans for the coming year.

Corporate Meetings & Incentives: This is a tough time for the business travel industry. What are NBTA members facing in the year ahead?
Mike McCormick: What they are being asked to do in their jobs is quite challenging and quite remarkable. They need to be experts in travel, meetings, purchasing, procurement, project management, and also in the business of their own corporation. It is a unique position and one that requires a lot of support‹and part of that support structure should come from our association.

CMI: What kind of support will NBTA provide to them?
McCormick: We are spending time and resources developing components like our strategic meetings management [certification] classes. We launched the first one in November, and the course was oversubscribed, which was pretty amazing. [The Core Week 1 program was held November 2­6 at Emory University in Atlanta.] It just shows that the demand is there for continuous learning.

Also, the way we deliver that education is changing. We are moving more classes online Š and we will continue to make big investments in that area.

CMI: What are your plans for the association moving forward?
McCormick: The three main things I am focusing on are expanding our membership around the world, growing our membership base, and evolving our products‹specifically around education and research‹to make sure that we're fulfilling the needs of our members here and abroad.

CMI: Can you talk more about NBTA's globalization plans?
McCormick: Our efforts over the last five years are what I call ³plant the flag² strategies, where we have been working with partners to establish an NBTA presence in all major markets and regions around the world. As with any globalization plan, we are working in stages. It's a ³test, learn, reinvest² mode. We are clearly planning to reinvest in a big way, and that is what I am in the process of doing now. It's about taking the relationships and the infrastructure we have built and bringing them to the next level.

CMI: Concerning the possibility of a merger between NBTA and the Association of Corporate Travel Executives, it appears negotiations are off. What's the latest?
McCormick: Well, the door is always open. I come from a business background and look at opportunities based on whether or not they make sense [from a business perspective]. It is not emotional for me. It is about doing what is best for our members and for the association. I would say that right now I am focused on the mandates I have been given [by the NBTA board], and core initiatives I have to put in place, but the door is always open in the future.

CMI: On what issues will NBTA focus its lobbying efforts in the coming months?
McCormick: We have always been an effective force on the Hill, and we plan to increase our efforts here and abroad. There are three primary [issues] that stand out. The first is [passage of] the FAA [Federal Aviation Administration] Reauthorization [Act of 2009]. The second is taxation:

Continuing to put an undue tax burden on the traveling public is not good for business and it is not good for this industry. And lastly, we are focused on the Registered Traveler, Global Entry, and Secure Flight programs. We are trying to make sure that the TSA [Transportation Security Administration] is supportive of getting Registered Traveler operational again.

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