Politicians inside Washington D.C.'s beltway and in state capitals are as much a threat to travel agents' success as hostile suppliers, Cheryl Hudak, president and CEO of ASTA said in a recent speech at the Boston Globe's Travel Show. Hudak's presentation, "Lessons Learned for Travel Agents Success," urged travel agents to pay close attention to what is happening in state capitals and Washington, noting that ASTA annually monitors thousands of legislative issues for their impact on agents.
"Perhaps no area has a greater impact on our long term viability than the political arena," Hudak said. "What happens in Washington, D.C. has a significant impact on our daily lives, both personally and professionally and it seems we only pay attention to this every four years."
Hudak, an agency owner for 25 years, urged travel agents to be aware of issues impacting their business, ASTA's key role in representing agents and to recognize the diversity and complexity of challenges facing the travel industry.
Among the many issues cited by Hudak is the Transportation Security Administration's (TSA) proposal to screen passengers in the Secure Flight program. ASTA questions if agents would have the time needed to respond and the costs of the program. First year costs-estimates vary from $22 to $68 billion -and could put many travel agents out of business, Hudak said.
She also warned cruise selling agents of the impact of the Passenger Vessel Services Act that could devastate the cruise industry and travel agents. It would, for example, eliminate existing Hawaii bound cruise itineraries and impact U.S.-based foreign flagged cruise ship itineraries.
On the state level she warned that state budget proposals are being introduced to raise taxes to fill state coffers and that they are going after service industries as their cash cows. "Already this year, more than 7,000 pieces of legislation have been pre-filed, many focused on taxes," Hudak said. On the state level she cited ASTA's recent success in Michigan, Texas, Massachusetts and Pennsylvania.
Hudak also noted ASTA's ongoing involvement with industry issues such as ARC's fee increases and encouraged travel agents to join ASTA, get involved and be alert to the challenges the industry confronts. "Travel agents can make a difference in the political arena when they come together as one voice."
On an operational level, Hudak said that successful travel agents must be aware of the day-to-day changes in the industry impacting them and their clients.
Lastly, "activism is essential," Hudak said, recommending that agents join ASTA and to provide the grassroots support and leadership essential to the industry. "It costs 68 cents a day to belong to ASTA-a fraction of what we spend on a Starbucks coffee each day." Visit www.asta.org (GD)