Advocacy Highlights

Wins for Members

ASTA fights to protect the interests of its members and the broader travel agency community at all levels of government – federal, state and even local governments. Between 2012 and today, ASTA’s efforts led to legislative and regulatory “wins” that saved the industry an estimated $630 million in new taxes, fees and other costs. These wins include:



Legislative Day 2021 Successes

  • On May 20 – the day after Legislative Day – the House unanimously passed the Alaska Tourism Restoration Act (H.R. 1318), to create a temporary, targeted waiver from the Passenger Vessel Services Act of 1886 by deeming certain roundtrip voyages between Alaska and Washington State as foreign voyages for the purposes of U.S. law. President Biden signed it into law on Monday, May 24. This will allow the cruise lines to execute a portion of the 2021 Alaska season (indeed, even before the bill was signed several lines announced restart dates). Instant gratification is a rare thing in government affairs, but members took ownership in this win, which will put money into our members’ pockets.

  • The SAVE Act (H.R. 2120), which seeks travel advisor inclusion into an SBA relief program called the Secure Venue Operators Program (SVOG) that would immediately bring relief to advisors, has added seven new cosponsors (up to 18), six of which were connected to our meetings. These include Reps. Dwight Evans (D-PA), Lucy McBath (D-GA), Jimmy Panetta (D-CA) and Kathleen Rice (D-NY).

  • On another priority, the Hospitality & Commerce Job Recovery Act (S. 477/H.R. 1346), a total of six new cosponsors have been added (up to 82 in the House and six in the Senate), four of which were connected to Leg Day. These include Rep. Lucy McBath (D-GA), Sens. Chris Coons (D-DE), Jacky Rosen (D-NV) and Cindy Hyde-Smith (R-MS).



Securing Financial Relief Related to COVID-19

Securing additional relief related to COVID-19 as part of the Consolidated Appropriations Act in December 2020, including “second draw” PPP loans for hard-hit businesses, a significant expansion of the CARES Act’s Employee Retention Tax Credit (ERTC) (retroactive to 2020 and more generous for the 1st half of 2021) and a continuation of expanded unemployment benefits for ICs and furloughed agency employees.

Lastly, in a final relief package, the American Rescue Plan Act in March 2021 brought forth support travel-reliant businesses and the industry as a whole to recover from the COVID-19 crisis, several of which we have been advocating for nonstop since the beginning of the year. The bill extended and expanded the refundable ERTC, extended unemployment benefits, allowed more funding for EIDL borrowers with priority given to borrowers with severe revenue losses, and provided $350 billion in support for state and local governments.

 

Removal from the U.S. Department of Labor "Blacklist"

In 2020, won a four-year fight to compel the U.S. Department of Labor to rescind an arbitrary regulatory “blacklist” that blocks travel agencies from utilizing an exemption from federal overtime rules designed for retail businesses

Grassroots Campaigns with Results

In 2020, ASTA

  • worked with cruise line partners and ASTA’s grassroots network to press the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) to replace its draconian “No-Sail Order” with a “framework for a phased resumption of cruise ship operations,” which it did in October 2020.  
  • led a grassroots campaign to force the Washington State Department of Licensing (DOL) to abandon a proposed 25 percent increase in annual Sellers of Travel fees, which it did in November 2020. 
  • led a grassroots campaign to compel New York State to change its mandatory two-week quarantine policy so as to allow returning travelers, including those from international destinations, to “test out” of the requirement.

California Assembly Bill (AB) 5

In 2019, working with ASTA’s consortia, host agency and local chapter leadership, secured an exemption for travel advisors in California Assembly Bill (AB) 5, which would have effectively outlawed the independent contractor model in California, saving agencies there at least $25 million per year.


Federal Aviation Administration Reauthorization Bill

In 2018, ASTA won a fight against burdensome new consumer disclosures contained in the five-year Federal Aviation Administration reauthorization bill, saving our industry $29.8 million per year in “talk time” and lost sales.

Tax Relief

In 2015, 2017 and 2019, working in coordination with local members and chapters ASTA successfully opposed proposals in Connecticut, Illinois, Maine, Nebraska, Ohio and Utah to expand state sales taxes to travel agency services, saving agencies in those states almost $72 million a year collectively in new taxes. 

Travel Insurance Licensing

Working with our insurance partners, starting in 2012 ASTA helped reform costly and complex travel insurance licensing in 48 states plus the District of Columbia. Annual agency savings in licensing costs and training time for these states alone totals almost $10.2 million a year.