American Society of Travel Agents (ASTA) President and CEO Zane Kerby recently issued a statement regarding the upcoming vote in the Maryland General Assembly on whether or not to "override" Gov. Larry Hogan's veto of Senate Bill (SB) 190, which would subject the fees charged by travel agents for Maryland hotel bookings to the state's six percent sales tax and create new administrative burdens for agencies.
Official ASTA Statement
"On behalf of the more than 1,100 people who work in the travel agency industry in the state of Maryland, we urge the General Assembly to oppose the veto override of SB 190, a bill that will impose a new tax on travel services," said Kerby. "Despite the rhetoric, this bill clearly gives taxing authorities the ability to go after travel agents of all shapes and sizes, online or offline – including the 226 Maryland agencies that employ more than 1,100 people. This would come at a time when our members are competing not only with each other and the online travel companies, but also against huge hotel chains aggressively pushing consumers to 'book direct' with the hotel and not with their trusted travel agent.
"In the days leading up to the vote," continued Kerby, "the Assembly will have to consider whether it wants to voluntarily take a step that will make Maryland less competitive from both the consumer's and the travel agent's perspective. Increasing the cost of doing business for these travel agents—many of them small business owners—by exposing them to new taxes and layers of red tape creates a disincentive for agents to send travelers to Maryland, and a cost incentive to send them elsewhere.
"We urge the General Assembly to reject this new tax and uphold the Governor's veto of SB 190," Kerby concluded.