Hundreds of travel advisors bring the voice of the traveler to Capitol Hill
Washington, D.C., June 4, 2019- Together with the American Society of Travel Advisors (ASTA), agency executives and industry advocates converge in Washington D.C. for the 2019 ASTA Legislative Day, hosted at The Mayflower Hotel.
Legislative Day is a member-only event connected to the broader ASTA Capitol Summit event that takes travel industry leaders directly to Members of Congress to discuss issues that impact our business, work life, and even the client’s travel experience. Before attending Congressional meetings pre-scheduled by ASTA, we prepare travel advisors with exclusive training to make sure they’re a confident travel advisor advocate.
Today, over 160 travel advisors from across the country will take their message to Capitol Hill, sharing ASTA’s stance on critical issues facing the corporate and leisure travel economy. The travel industry’s most powerful players will flex their political muscles during ASTA’s Legislative Day, with over 150 House and Senate Congressional meetings scheduled.
ASTA is the leading professional travel trade organization in the world and our memebrs represent over 80% of agency sales. Our current membership consists of close to 10,500 domestic travel agency and allied travel companies, varying in size from the smallest home-based advisor to storefront agencies in every state and Congressional district. Travel agencies – online, brick-and-mortar or hybrid models in between – play a critical role in our country’s travel and tourism industry. In 2018, travel agencies processed $116.8 billion in annual travel sales and were used by 22% of U.S. travelers for both leisure and business trips. Travel agencies arranged over 295 million air trips and processed $67.9 billion in air sales alone.
“In politics, you face a choice – engage in the process or put your head in the sand, leave the field to the opposition and hope for the best. ASTA and our members choose to engage, both in D.C. and in the states, and we have a series of wins to show for it,” said Zane Kerby, President & CEO of the American Society of Travel Advisors “By showing Congress who we are, who we employ, and that we are paying attention, the government will understand that travel advisors watch out for the traveling public. Legislative Day is the most important part of that engagement. According to the Congressional Management Foundation, an in-person visit from a constituent is rated by congressional offices as the most effective way to influence a Member of Congress”.
Last year ASTA members generated Congressional support, specifically from Sen. Mike Lee of Utah, for the removal of burdensome new consumer disclosures contained in the Senate version of the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) reauthorization bill, saving the industry $29.8 million per year in “talk time” and lost sales.
Top Legislative Priorities for Today’s Meetings
Industry Education: With so many new Members of Congress sworn in this year and with ASTA having just rebranded in 2018, we plan to put more emphasis this year on telling the story of our resilient and growing industry to the members of 116th Congress. Educating these lawmakers on your business is an important first step to ensuring our voices are heard on the issues that matter most.
Bolstering Funding for TSA and Its Workforce: The Aviation Passenger Security Fee was created to pay for the costs of providing civil aviation security services to, but since 2013 Congress has been diverting over $1 billion per year of these fees to deficit reduction and away from aviation security services. The Funding for Aviation Screeners and Threat Elimination Restoration (FASTER) Act would eliminate this diversion of passenger security fees and give the Transportation Security Administration (TSA) access to revenue to ensure that airport screeners receive pay during any future government shutdown.
Independent Contractor Harmonization: Today, there is a lot of confusion about whether workers should be classified as employees or independent contractors, with multiple agencies such as the Internal Revenue Service (IRS) and Department of Labor using different tests for making this determination. At Leg Day we’ll be supporting The Harmonization of Coverage Act, which adopts the IRS’ “right-of-control” test across the board. Given the growth in agency usage of independent advisors in our industry, getting clarity here will be critical.
“Policymaking is a marathon, not a sprint,” said Eben Peck, ASTA’s Executive Vice President of Advocacy. “Our goal is to get as many legislators as possible to support our priorities and increase the chances of success, even if it takes a few years. Showing up, in person, year after year, is the best way to make that happen.”
ASTA kicked off today’s Congressional meetings with a reception at the U.S. Capitol last evening in which the 2019 Global Travel Advocate Award was presented to U.S. Senator Mike Lee (R-UT) for his work last year to save the industry almost $30 million in economic impact from burdensome new consumer disclosures proposed in the FAA reauthorization bill.
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.