ASTA Members Take Issues Critical to Travel Agencies to Capitol Hill
Published on : Thursday, March 17, 2016
Super Tuesday may be known by the rest of the country as a key date in the presidential elections, but to ASTA (American Society of Travel Agents) members, it represents a day in which they conveyed, firsthand, ASTA’s stance on critical issues facing corporate and leisure travel agents, agency owners and managers.
ASTA members spent Legislative Day 2016 navigating between the U.S. House of Representatives and the Senate, and around the Capitol Building, where a surprise visit by President Obama heightened both excitement and security. “Travel professionals from across the nation converged on Capitol Hill and in 70 face-to-face meetings with their elected officials drove home the notion that agents provide great value to consumers and to the broader U.S. economy,” said ASTA President and CEO Zane Kerby. “We thank all of our members, including our Board of Directors, Chapter Presidents and Corporate Advisory Council (CAC) who took time out of their schedule to come to Washington to lobby on behalf of every ASTA member.”
On Monday, ASTA’s CAC met in the Westin Georgetown to help frame the Society’s advocacy agenda, and heard from pundits on what the current political climate means for our industry. CAC Chairman Marc Casto, CEO of Casto Travel in San Jose, CA, said, “Compared to the multi-million dollar lobbying firms rife in D.C., the travel agency industry is out-spent and out-gunned. In order to be heard in the halls of power, we need to be crafty and we need to be creative, which is what we did this week. By showing them who we are, who we employ, and that we are paying attention,” continued Casto, “the government will understand that travel agents watch out for the traveling public. We are going to fight onerous legislation that is anti-consumer or that impacts our businesses in a negative way.”
After ASTA members were fully briefed on ASTA’s comprehensive legislative agenda by Senior Vice President of Government Affairs Eben Peck, they were able to hit a few key highlights with Members of Congress, including:
- FAA Reauthorization Bill (New disclosures and Transparent Airfares Act)— Under the House FAA bill, agents could be fined up to $27,500 per transaction for failing to disclose something they have no control over—airline seat maps. ASTA is asking Congress to remove travel agents from any disclosure regime for families flying together and to keep the so-called Transparent Airfares Act out of the final FAA bill.
- Freedom to Travel to Cuba Act—Americans should be afforded the right to travel the world, and the ban on travel to Cuba should be fully and finally lifted. ASTA is asking Congress to pass the Freedom to Travel to Cuba Act (S.299/H.R.664).
- End Discriminatory State Taxes on Automobile Renters Act—State and local governments are treating travel industry businesses and leisure travelers like piggy banks with taxes on rental cars that go to pay for unrelated state items, such as new football stadiums. These taxes fall on ASTA members’ clients, while the benefits go elsewhere. ASTA is asking Congress to pass bipartisan legislation (S.1164/H.R.1528) to stop these discriminatory taxes.
As previously announced, ASTA kicked off Legislative Day with a reception in which the 2016 Global Travel Advocate Award was presented to Rep. Gus Bilirakis (R-FL), for his leadership on the Travel and Tourism Caucus and his dedication to the travel industry. The reception was attended by no fewer than six Members of Congress, including Bilirakis, Tom Emmer (R-MN), Dina Titus (D-NV), Mark Sanford (R-SC), Sam Farr (D-CA) and Lois Capps (D-CA).
In presenting the award, Kerby said, “Congressman Bilirakis has fought a number of battles on our behalf over the past few years, including using his seat on the Energy and Commerce Committee to successfully reauthorizing Brand USA against long odds at the end of 2014. Thanks to his efforts, our country is better positioned to fight for our rightful share of the international travel market.”