Group Seeks Regulatory Change to Help Agencies Control Payroll Costs, Better Serve Clients
Alexandria, VA, July 11, 2018 – The American Society of Travel agents (ASTA) is praising a recent push by a bipartisan group of 11 Members of Congress led by Representative Francis Rooney (FL 19th) to remove travel agencies from an arbitrary regulatory “blacklist” that blocks them from utilizing an exemption from federal labor rules designed for retail businesses.
“Travel agents – online, ‘brick and mortar’ and many hybrid business models in between – play a critical role in the economy and broader travel and tourism industry,” the coalition wrote in a letter to U.S. Labor Secretary Alexander Acosta. “We believe the inclusion of travel agencies on the…blacklist is contrary to the intent of Congress and [that] travel agents should be treated as any other retail business. Removing agencies from the blacklist ensures fairness…by protecting agency owners against audits and lawsuits while giving them the flexibility to better serve their clients in the dynamic and hyper-competitive travel industry.”
“Travel agencies are the very picture of retail businesses, with employees regularly working irregular hours helping clients facing travel disruptions, and we think it’s indefensible that agencies are denied use of this exemption from labor rules,” said Zane Kerby, ASTA’s President and CEO. “We are incredibly grateful to Congressman Rooney and all the members of this bipartisan coalition for taking up this fight, as well as to the ASTA members who pressed this issue during our Legislative Day in May and otherwise participated in this advocacy campaign.”
The following Members of Congress signed onto the letter to Secretary Acosta transmitted on June 27 – Reps. Jim Banks (IN 3rd), Andy Biggs (AZ 5th), Gus Bilirakis (FL 12th), Ted Budd (NC 13th), Matt Gaetz (FL 1st), Greg Gianforte (MT 1st), Trey Hollingsworth (IN 9th), Jim Jordan (OH 4th), Scott Peters (CA 52nd), Francis Rooney (FL 19th) and Dina Titus (NV 1st). Most of the signers were visited by ASTA delegations during the Society’s Legislative Day on May 8.
The goal of coalition is effectively the same as the Travel agent Retail Fairness Act (H.R. 2515), legislation introduced by Congressman Rooney in 2017 to direct the Secretary of Labor to revise its regulations to remove travel agencies from the partial list of establishments having no retail concept within 90 days. That bill, which is pending before the House Committee on Education and the Workforce, currently enjoys 12 bipartisan cosponsors, with Reps. Andy Biggs (AZ 5th) and Scott Peters (CA 52nd) signing on most recently on June 25.
For more on this issue, see a copy of the coalition letter sent last month, Congressman Rooney’s June 29 press release and ASTA’s 2017 release on the introduction of the Travel agent Retail Fairness Act.
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.