It may be known as Super Tuesday but, for members of the American Society of Travel Agents (ASTA), Super Tuesday was the day that travel agents went to bat for the critical issues that plague both corporate and leisure travelers and travel agencies.
Legislative Day 2016 was spent on Capitol Hill where travel agents were busy negotiating and illuminating legislators on the issues that they faced. And a highlight of the day was definitely a surprise visit from President Obama.
"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."
There was a lot of strategy that went into the day. The Monday before the meetings on Legislative Day, travel agents met to craft their message.
Travel Agents Respond
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."
Some of the issues that ASTA agents were fighting for are extremely familiar to travelers, such as transparency in airfares and the freedom to travel to Cuba and other issues were of particular benefit to agents – and some were a combination of both.
For example, according to ASTA, the FAA Reauthorization Bill (New disclosures and Transparent Airfares Act) means that, 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 asked 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.
The Freedom to Travel to Cuba Act is something that a majority of American are in favor of. It says that Americans should be afforded the right to travel the world and that the travel ban to Cuba should be lifted.
Of particular interest to travelers is ASTA’s efforts on the End Discriminatory State Taxes on Automobile Renters Act. According to ASTA, 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. ASTA says that these taxes fall its 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.