ASTA Meets With DOT, Seeks End to Fragmentation

A delegation of members of the American Society of Travel Agents (ASTA)  from across the travel distribution sector met with Secretary of Transportation Ray LaHood Friday, a move ASTA said was an “historic first.” It is the first step in expanding ASTA’s government affairs “footprint” in Washington, D.C., ASTA president and chair Chris Russo said. It also underscored ASTA’s willingness to end the fragmentation that has plagued the industry.

The meeting at the Department of Transportation's (DOT) Washington headquarters provided ASTA with an opportunity to share with the Secretary the association's perspectives on key issues facing the travel and tourism industry, including trends in the air travel booking process and an array of legislative and regulatory changes facing the agency community in 2010, ASTA said.

"We are deeply grateful to Secretary LaHood for being so generous with his time," said ASTA‘s Russo. "As ASTA continues to expand its government affairs ‘footprint,' meetings such as this are vitally important."

The meeting's participants included a broad cross-section of the travel distribution marketplace and brought together small and large agencies from across the country, representing both the retail and corporate sectors.

Attendees included:

*    Chris Russo, ASTA president and chair, Travel Partners (Broomfield, CO)
*    Marc Casto, president and COO, Casto Travel (San Jose, CA)
*    Bruce J. Charendoff, senior vice president of government and external affairs, Sabre Holdings/Travelocity (Southlake, TX)
*    David P. Holyoke, president, Travel Leaders Corporate (Coral Gables, FL)
*    Jennifer Wilson-Buttigieg, co-president, Valerie Wilson Travel (New York, NY)

ASTA said the focus of the discussion was the issues threatening consumer access to comparative information about airline services through the independent distribution system. ASTA offered its members and staff as a resource for the Secretary to further the government's understanding of the workings of that system and its importance to consumer welfare.

"ASTA is committed to doing its part to end the fragmentation that has plagued our industry for too long," Russo added. "There is too much at stake for us not to be unified, and I'm delighted that we could present a shared set of concerns in our meeting with Secretary LaHood. We look forward to continuing to work with the Secretary and the Congress in the months and years to come."


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