ASTA Congratulates, Scolds

Travel industry lobbyists described for delegates the ingredients for recent lobbying successes

In a session that was part celebratory and part admonishing, travel industry lobbyists described for delegates to the ASTA World Travel Congress the ingredients for recent lobbying successes.

Looking ahead, the Society renewed efforts to identify members willing to testify before legislatures or participate in other ways when the trade needs to influence government.

On the celebratory side, Bruce Charendoff, senior vice president of government affairs at Sabre Holdings, said, “There is so much to feel proud about. ASTA has racked up some major victories.”

He pointed, in particular, to the Society’s efforts, with partners, to overturn plans for onerous GDS rules. Charendoff said someone from the White House called him in December, inquiring about the Society’s position on a number of points. Charendoff relayed the information, and GDS deregulation was announced on New Year’s Eve. In other words, he said, “ASTA had the last word.”

Brent Thompson, director of government affairs for IAC/InterActiveCorp, said, “The accomplishments of the last 12 months have been breathtaking” and that the trade scored a “very satisfying” victory when the DOT backed off plans to regulate agency service fees.

Thompson discussed state-level challenges, too, pointing to successful fights in Florida and Massachusetts to kill bills that would have made retailer markups and, possibly, agency commissions subject to hotel room taxes.

The admonishment was offered by Paul Ruden, ASTA’s staff senior vice president for legal and industry affairs.

Although the trade did win battles this past year, it can’t rest on its laurels because there will be important new or unresolved issues in multiple states and on the national level, he said.

In Pennsylvania, he said “we are locked in a battle royale” over proposed agency bonding that “would drive the cost of doing business way, way up and cost some people their businesses.” Ruden said ASTA needs as many volunteers as possible for the battles ahead. ASTA distributed a sign-up sheet during the Congress and will put the document on the Web and promote it to all members, Ruden said.