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,