Landmark Win for ASTA Will Help Agencies Control Costs, Better Serve Clients Once COVID Crisis Passes
Alexandria, VA, May 19, 2020 – Yesterday, the U.S. Department of Labor (DOL) announced its intent to rescind an arbitrary regulatory “blacklist” that blocks travel agencies from utilizing an exemption from federal overtime rules designed for retail businesses. In Congress and at the White House and DOL, ASTA has been advocating for this action since 2016, including during multiple ASTA Legislative Days.
“We commend the Department of Labor for recognizing that travel advisors frequently work irregular hours to help clients facing travel disruptions, as seen most recently during the COVID crisis, and that travel agencies should have the same access to this exemption from the overtime rules as any other retail business,” said Zane Kerby, ASTA President & CEO. “In addition, we are incredibly grateful to Congressman Rooney, Congresswoman Titus, and other legislators who have taken up our cause over the past few years. Once the COVID crisis passes, our industry will be in a better position to serve clients thanks to this change.”
Though applicable to all industries on the blacklist, the DOL’s action would have the same effect as the bipartisan Travel Advisor Retail Fairness Act (H.R. 2506), introduced in May 2019, which directs 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. Sponsored by Rep. Francis Rooney (FL-19), H.R. 2506 is currently cosponsored by Reps. Andy Biggs (AZ-5), Gus Bilirakis (FL-12), Bradley Byrne (AL-1), Ted Deutch (FL-22), Matt Gaetz (FL-1), Debbie Lesko (AZ-8), John Rutherford (FL-4) and Dina Titus (NV-1).
“While sustaining their businesses through the coronavirus crisis is our members’ primary focus right now, this welcome step will provide a measure of regulatory relief once business returns,” said Eben Peck, ASTA’s Executive Vice President, Advocacy. “ASTA has been actively engaging with policymakers on this issue for the better part of four years, but this kind of successful advocacy work is a team effort. If you attended ASTA Legislative Day, if you responded to our grassroots calls-to-action, if you contributed to ASTAPAC, or even if you supported ASTA with your membership dues, you share credit for this victory.”
ASTA has been pressing this issue in Congress and at the White House and DOL since 2016, meeting with senior Department officials, filing a formal petition for rulemaking, garnering support for Congressman Rooney’s bill, coordinating a Congressional coalition letter on the topic and suggesting it to the White House as a pro-business regulatory action at the outset of the COVID crisis.
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.