Following the election of Joe Biden as the 46th president of the United States, the American Society of Travel Advisors (ASTA) has shared how the change will likely affect the travel industry. Here's what it had to say:
The society’s top priority remains passage of a new coronavirus (COVID-19) relief bill as quickly as possible. The CARES Act, which was passed in March, has long since run dry, ASTA says and additional support for businesses most harmed by COVID-19 is urgently needed. Recently, ASTA said it was unsure if the “lame duck” Congress would provide a favorable environment for quick action on this front or if this work will stall until 2021. ASTA notes, however, that Congressional leaders from both parties remain optimistic about striking a quick deal.
With regard to cruising, the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) replaced its draconian “No Sail Order” the Saturday before Election Day (October 30, specifically), with a new framework for a phased resumption of cruise ship operations. “This was a welcome development and a key milestone in the restart of the travel industry,” ASTA says, adding that due to the strict measures, the first sailings won’t take place until next year. While noting the framework is cautious and that President-elect Biden will “likely to have more pressing issues to deal with in its early days,” ASTA notes “It is possible that the incoming Biden Administration will make changes to this order, further pushing back the cruise industry’s restart.”
In July, ASTA called on the federal government to mandate mask-wearing on all commercial flights and welcomed President-elect Biden’s campaign promise to institute a mask mandate on public transit and airlines. This would take the burden of enforcing mask policies off frontline workers and others in industry, but what agency might apply such a mandate or how it would be regulated remains a question. Nonetheless, ASTA expects an executive order early next year empowering the CDC to exercise its broad authority to require masks and/or for the Transportation Security Administration to require mask usage as a part of the security screening process.
Travel to Cuba could also change for the better under a Biden Administration—which is something Cultural Cuba owner and founder David Lee agrees with. After assuming office in 2017, the Trump Administration undid President Barack Obama’s moves to restore U.S.-Cuba relations, including the move to open up travel as far as the law allowed (which ASTA supported). A top Biden foreign policy adviser reported that Biden would reverse these decisions by Trump, but it wouldn’t happen overnight. “Given all that will be on President-elect Biden’s plate next year, we expect action on Cuba to come slowly,” ASTA says.
Labor regulations will also be something worth keeping an eye on. With a divided Congress, the chances of passing legislation making substantial changes to the country’s labor laws is remote. That said, according to ASTA, a Biden Administration Department of Labor (DOL) could make a lot of changes on its own. “A first step is a likely revocation of the DOL’s September proposal clarifying the test used to determine the status of a worker as an employee or independent contractor (IC), with additional anti-IC action potentially following,” ASTA says. “We could also see a repeat of the Obama Administration’s 2016 proposal to dramatically increase the minimum salary requirement for exempt (overtime-ineligible) employees.” Although, due to ASTA’s win on the DOL blacklist issue, it says agencies may have access to a different exemption that they didn’t before.
ASTA adds: “There are a number of other issues we’re watching closely this year and next that will be impacted by the election results and are key to the travel industry’s recovery, including the need to work with foreign governments to untangle the multitude of international travel restrictions that exist today, harmonizing international and state government rules on COVID testing versus quarantines and vaccine development and distribution.”