June 8, 2020
Dear ASTA members,
Against the backdrop of human and economic suffering occasioned by the COVID-19 pandemic was the senseless killing of George Floyd, who needlessly died from a police officer's blatant disregard for human life. This was, sadly, more evidence of the bias that exists in our justice system.
Dangers faced by African Americans and other minorities because of this bias must be addressed. It's clear that meaningful change as to who and how our communities are served by police needs to take place if we're to live up to the lofty ideal of liberty and equality before the law established by the Declaration of Independence and guaranteed in our Constitution and Bill of Rights.
I spent much of last week listening to co-workers describe how the death of George Floyd, Ahmaud Arbery, and Breonna Taylor, in the context of other violence and social conditions prevalent for far too long, has affected them. Each expressed frustration, fatigue, and sadness. My own expressions of solidarity were appreciated but inadequate. ?The entire ASTA staff, regardless of race, stands in solidarity with everyone in the African-American community advocating for peaceful change.
As we've pondered ASTA's role in promoting social justice and equal treatment before the law, several priorities are clear:
Improving the laws that govern our society is an important step toward changing behavior. But, biases that we individually develop aren't going to be addressed by training. Much of what we think, feel and believe falls outside the legal system.
This, too, must change and belongs to each of us as individuals and citizens. That's a significant reason why the business of travel, the business that ASTA members facilitate every day, is so important.
The most powerful way to open or change someone's mind is to encourage them to go, see and experience. To engage with a new culture, place, a new set of ideas, a different culture's heroes, stories and people, opens the world to all, showing what we have in common is far greater and more important than our differences.
I know my travels have shattered any sense of ethnocentrism I had and has done the same for my family and many on our staff. It's another reason why we are pressuring the Administration and the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) to provide specific guidance on what actions suppliers and individual travelers need to take in order to travel safely now and prior to a COVID-19 vaccine.
It is our job, both professionally and personally, to build bridges of tolerance and understanding that foster the equal value of all human life regardless of race, cause, creed, and orientation.
President & CEO
American Society of Travel Advisors (ASTA)
Rebranded in 2018 as the American Society of Travel Advisors, ASTA is the leading global advocate for travel advisors, the travel industry and the traveling public. Its members represent 80 percent of all travel sold in the United States through the travel agency distribution channel. Together with hundreds of internationally-based members, ASTA’s history of industry advocacy traces back to its founding in 1931 when it launched with the mission to facilitate the business of selling travel through effective representation, shared knowledge and the enhancement of professionalism. For more information about the Society, visit ASTA.org. Consumers can connect with an ASTA travel advisor at TravelSense.org.