Yucatan Sustains Minimal Damage

*Fax Law Approved
*Cell Phone Ban Upheld for Now
*ASTA, G2 Clear Air

Last week, Hurricane Emily slammed into resort areas of Mexico’s Yucatan peninsula, but largely sideswiped Jamaica and several other major Caribbean islands. In Cancun and Cozumel, tourists and residents were forced to evacuate and many in the region lost power, but most of the infrastructure was spared. Emily made landfall north of Tulum on the Yucatan coast south of Cancun as a Category 4 storm, with 135 mile-per-hour winds, according to the National Hurricane Center. The most powerful part of the hurricane reportedly passed over the popular resort island of Cozumel, although damage was said to be minimal.

According to Jorge Vignet of the Cancun Convention and Visitors Bureau (CCVB), damage in the Caribbean resort city was minimal, consisting mainly of downed power lines. Full power was quickly was restored in the hotel zone and the city’s airport reopened. Similarly, a handful of resorts in the greater Cancun/Riviera Maya area, including some on Cozumel, reported minimal damage.

The CCVB has posted videotaped eyewitness reports from U.S. tourists and others in the region on their Web site (www.cancun.info).

Free to Fax, Sort Of

President Bush recently approved the Junk Fax Prevention Act. Under the new law, businesses are free to send commercial faxes without prior consent from the recipient, so long as a business relationship has been previously established. The Junk Fax Prevention Act was supported by several trade groups and travel associations.

‘Can You Hear Me Now?’

The Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) will keep a ban on cell phone use on commercial planes, at least for now, according to reports. The two agencies that would have to approve cell phone use the FAA and the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) are examining the issue. The FAA is investigating safety concerns about the use of wireless devices interfering with flight control systems, the Associated Press reported. The study is due in December 2006. While tech companies and some travel groups support lifting the ban, the AP reported, most of the public comments received by the FCC are against the idea.

ASTA, G2 SwitchWorks Clear the Air

The American Society of Travel Agents and G2 SwitchWorks patched up their differences, as G2 joined as an allied member and ASTA acknowledged that airline ownership of the new distributor is limited enough to pose little threat to travel agents.

Representatives of ASTA and G2 met May 12, nine days after ASTA wrote a complaint to the Justice Department’s Antitrust Division, requesting an investigation into the possibility that airlines would again control a GDS through investment in G2.

Prior to that meeting, G2 had blasted ASTA for being ill-informed about the company’s distribution business and ownership. But ASTA disclosed and G2 confirmed that the investment by seven domestic airlines in G2 is capped at 16 percent. The cap for each domestic airline is 5 percent.

“Some airlines have received allocations [to be earned] of less than 5 percent,” ASTA said. “We were further informed that the investment-for-prepaid-segment-fees program is now closed to further airline participation.”

ASTA said that it and the government “must remain vigilant” about airline control of companies offering “GDS-like services.” However, regarding G2, ASTA said it “has now concluded, based on the representations made, that voting control of G2 SwitchWorks rests with its venture capitalist investors and not the airlines.”

G2 recently disclosed that it joined ASTA as an allied member, and will exhibit at the ASTA World Congress.

“G2 joined ASTA in order to have exposure and open communication with travel agents to better understand their needs,” a G2 spokeswoman said.

Travel Officials Partner to Prevent Hotel Tax

The American Society of Travel Agents (ASTA) has partnered with the National Tour Association (NTA), Interactive Travel Services Association (ITSA) and the Business Travel Coalition (BTC) to prevent the passage of a hotel occupancy tax on travel intermediaries in Florida, Georgia, Louisiana and California.

Over the past several years, according to officials, state legislators have pushed to tax services provided by travel intermediaries. Officials fear that this could decrease tourism in these areas hitting local, independent hotels hardest as well as smaller travel agencies that either absorb the tax or pass it onto consumers.

“With our partners, we will continue to be vigilant as tax measures will resurface again next year particularly as states look to refill state coffers with additional revenue,” said Kathy Sudeikis, ASTA President and CEO.