As part of Legislative Day 2016, members of the the American Society of Travel Agents (ASTA) traveled to Washington, DC, to meet with members of Congress on issues of importance facing corporate and leisure travel agents, agency owners and managers. Members, including ASTA's Board of Directors, Chapter Presidents and Corporate Advisory Council (CAC) also got a surprise meeting with President Obama.
ASTA's CAC met in the Westin Georgetown to help frame the Society's advocacy agenda, and heard from pundits on what the current political climate means for the travel industry.
After ASTA members were fully briefed on ASTA's legislative agenda by Senior Vice President of Government Affairs Eben Peck, they were able to hit a few key highlights with Members of Congress, including:
FAA Reauthorization Bill (New disclosures and Transparent Airfares Act)— Under the House FAA bill, agents could be fined up to $27,500 per transaction for failing to disclose something they have no control over—airline seat maps. ASTA is asking Congress to remove travel agents from any disclosure regime for families flying together and to keep the Transparent Airfares Act out of the final FAA bill.
Freedom to Travel to Cuba Act — Americans should be afforded the right to travel the world, ASTA said, and the ban on travel to Cuba should be fully and finally lifted. ASTA is asking Congress to pass the Freedom to Travel to Cuba Act (S.299/H.R.664).
End Discriminatory State Taxes on Automobile Renters Act — ASTA also spoke out against taxes on rental cars that go to pay for unrelated state items, such as new football stadiums. These taxes fall on ASTA members' clients, while the benefits go elsewhere. ASTA is asking Congress to pass bipartisan legislation (S.1164/H.R.1528) to stop these taxes.
ASTA kicked off Legislative Day with a reception in which the 2016 Global Travel Advocate Award was presented to Rep. Gus Bilirakis (R-FL), for his leadership on the Travel and Tourism Caucus and his dedication to the travel industry. The reception was attended by six Members of Congress, including Bilirakis, Tom Emmer (R-MN), Dina Titus (D-NV), Mark Sanford (R-SC), Sam Farr (D-CA) and Lois Capps (D-CA).