ASTA's primary role is to promote and defend the agency community, said Zane Kerby, president and CEO of the American Society of Travel Agents (ASTA) who kicked off this weeks ASTA's Legislative Day.
"Increasing our visibility with key lawmakers and regulators who shape our industry is an essential activity. Every ASTA member segment — from large corporate agency owners to independent operators — were on hand to put a real life face and voice to our industry's issues," Kerby said.
Kerby and ASTA members took to Capitol Hill to elicit support for ASTA’s legislative priorities in "promoting and defending the profession, looking out for the consumer and supporting the travel and tourism industry."
ASTA said its legislative priorities for 2014 include:
- (1) Opposing the Transparent Airfares Act of 2014 (H.R.4156), which would repeal the Department of Transportation’s (DOT) pro-consumer rule that currently keeps the total price of a fare as transparent as possible for the traveling public;
- (2) Asking the DOT to close the gap between existing rules and the full restoration of comparison shopping regarding ancillary services and fees so that consumers have full access to them when airlines unbundle their fares; (3) Ending discriminatory taxes on car rentals by supporting H.R.2543, a bipartisan bill that would prohibit state and local governments from imposing new special taxes on car rentals;
- (4) Increasing international travel to the U.S. through initiatives such as the Jobs Originated Through Launching Travel Act, or “JOLT Act” (H.R. 1354), which would streamline the entry process for international visitors, expand the Visa Waiver Program, reduce visa interview wait times and increase participation in the Global Entry program and the Travel Promotion, Enhancement, and Modernization Act of 2014 (H.R. 4450/S. 2250), which would reauthorize Brand USA, the non-profit, public-private partnership dedicated to increasing inbound international travel.
“ASTA is one of the truly unique associations in which small and big businesses come together for the collective good of the industry. Imagine the impact we could have if more of those in the industry were to support their national trade association and its advocacy efforts," said ASTA chairman John Lovell of Breton Village Travel Services, Grand Rapids, Mich.
ASTA noted that the Legislative Day follows a meeting at the White House with the special assistant to President Obama, representation on the White House Business Council forum on travel and tourism and discussions with officials in the departments of Commerce and Transportation.
“As with our consumer awareness efforts, we see that through our advocacy efforts at the state and federal levels, elected officials are becoming more aware of what travel professionals do not only for them, but for our nation’s economic health,” said Kerby.