ASTA Hopeful On Obama Policies, Acts On SBA Loans for Agents

As Washington, D.C. braces for as many as 2 million visitors to witness the January 20 inauguration of President Obama, ASTA expressed optimism on the recently submitted industry stimulus plan that includes loans to small businesses. ASTA also praised Secretary of State designate Hillary Clinton for signaling a change in U.S. policy toward Cuba.

ASTA's stimulus proposals include the restoration of a post 9/11 program of direct low interest rate loans to small businesses through the Small Business Administration (SBA). It also envisions the creation of an investment tax credit program for small business investments in information-related technologies, which will be crucial for travel agencies to compete effectively in the years ahead.

ASTA President and Chair Chris Russo praised the seven recommendations from the December 2008 economic summit that have been sent to the Obama transition team that included immediate action on economic stimulus and ending travel bans. Thirty-nineorganizations participated.

“ASTA is extremely pleased to have been a part of this unprecedented summit, where associations from across the industry came together to promote our common agenda—focusing on the inclusion in the new administration's stimulus legislation of key elements needed to restore growth in America's travel and tourism industry," Russo said. "We are proud of the final outcome and thank the National Tour Association for its leadership and hard work in putting this together. Each of the participating organizations has its own agenda, requiring compromise all around. After intense discussions the final product is something of which all the signatories can be proud. I am especially pleased to see that two key ASTA immediate-stimulus proposals were accepted by the group and that a third, the re-examination of travel bans, is among the ideas put forward for near-term consideration.”

On Cuba, ASTA said it is encouraged by early indications that President Obama will quickly begin to remove the obstacles to travel to Cuba. ASTA said it will continue to advocate for full liberalization of travel, and travel-related financial restraints, in all restricted markets.

ASTA also praised Hillary Clinton for signaling a change in American foreign policy with respect to Cuba. At her confirmation hearing before the Senate Foreign Relations Committee last week, Clinton indicated that the new Administration is committed to lifting current restrictions on Americans' freedom to visit family members in Cuba and to send remittances to relatives in that country. Clinton's nomination cleared the Foreign Relations Committee late last week in a 16-1 vote.


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