ASTA's Issues for the New Administration

The organization sets out its top agenda items for the new government By: Kenneth Shapiro
ASTA has a list of issues for incoming officials. // © 2016 iStock
ASTA has a list of issues for incoming officials. // © 2016 iStock

The Details

American Society of Travel Agents

The day after the presidential election, the American Society of Travel Agents (ASTA) announced it was looking forward to working with President-elect Donald Trump’s administration on issues it sees as important to members.

Why It Matters:
Travel is a major economic force in the U.S., and ASTA wants to make sure it works effectively with the incoming administration to help the industry continue to grow. According to a message to its members, important issues for ASTA include: passing a Federal Aviation Administration reauthorization bill; adjusting or eliminating the new Department of Labor rules on overtime compensation; clarifying the official definition and allowable use of independent contractors; and maintaining the path toward opening up Cuba for U.S. travelers.

Fast Facts:
ASTA’s views on its agenda items:
- FAA Reauthorization – “Republicans will now fully control the process of developing this ‘must-pass’ legislation expiring in September 2017, which sets aviation policy generally and authorizes the collection of federal aviation taxes. Republican committee members might be more receptive to airline efforts to include the so-called Transparent Airfares Act (which ASTA has opposed since it was introduced in 2014), but at the same time are likely to be open to ASTA's ideas for reducing the overall regulatory burden on travel agents who sell air.”

- Overtime/Blacklist – “On Dec. 1, new Department of Labor (DOL) rules go into effect that more than double the salary threshold under which virtually all employees are guaranteed overtime, from $23,660 to $47,476 per year, with automatic increases in future years. While ASTA is supporting legislative efforts to kill or delay the rule, we are also petitioning DOL to remove travel agencies from a ‘blacklist’ blocking them from using the retail exemption from overtime rules. We believe a Trump Administration DOL is more likely to roll back or delay the overtime rules and grant our blacklist petition than a Clinton Administration DOL would have been.”

- Independent Contractors – “For years, Congressional Democrats and the Obama Administration have been pushing measures to crack down on the use of independent contractors (ICs), a key issue for ASTA given the estimated 20,000 ICs in our industry. After the election, legislative initiatives on this front will continue to go nowhere, while the overall regulatory environment for ICs at the DOL, Internal Revenue Service, etc. is likely to improve. At the same time, conditions are now ripe for passing legislation to harmonize the conflicting ‘tests’ the government uses to determine if a worker is an employee or an IC, which will be a major focus of ASTA's advocacy efforts in 2017.”

- Cuba Travel – “This is the most concerning from our point of view. While the statutory ‘travel ban’ remains, the Obama Administration opened up Cuba travel regulations as far as they can go without changing the law, including allowing individual travelers to go to Cuba (and travel agents to sell Cuba) without a government license as long as the type of travel is authorized. Early in the campaign President-elect Trump signaled he was not opposed to opening Cuba, but in mid-October he tweeted a reversal while campaigning in Florida: ‘The people of Cuba have struggled too long... Will reverse Obama's Executive Orders and concessions towards Cuba until freedoms are restored.’ How and even whether he will follow through on this given the many other priorities he'll have upon assuming office is impossible to know today. ASTA remains committed to the notion that Americans should be allowed to travel across the globe without restriction, allowing them to act as ambassadors of freedom and American values abroad.”

What They Are Saying:
“ASTA’s mission to represent the travel agency community remains unchanged,” said Zane Kerby, ASTA president and CEO. “ASTA has maintained relationships with lawmakers and regulators that span years and decades. Building on our success since 1931, ASTA is excited to begin 2017 with a renewed focus on both advocacy and consumer awareness initiatives, and a continued commitment to be the one, unified, voice for the travel agency community.”

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