Get Us in Your Inbox
During a press briefing with travel media on Friday, Oct. 2, Zane Kerby, president and CEO of the American Society of Travel Advisors (ASTA), called the lack of a federal COVID-19 relief package and the news of Centers for Disease Control and Prevention’s (CDC) No Sail Order Oct. 31 extension “two glaring and related problems.”
Coming on the heels of thousands of airline layoffs this past week and with Congress soon heading into recess without a deal, travel-related businesses face a grim future “first because of government action — border closures and the CDC’s No Sail order — and Congress’ inaction and failure to provide relief to businesses like ours that the government’s action has effectively shut down,” Kerby said.
RELATED: Industry Responds to CDC's One-Month Extension of the No-Sail Order
He also encouraged constituents to consider voting out elected officials in the upcoming election if they choose to head home without providing financial relief for the pandemic, which was exacerbated due to the country’s lack of a comprehensive testing and tracing program and the refusal to look to other countries — such as South Korea and Taiwan — for a model on how to handle the outbreak.
“No one should believe the words that leave their lips as they campaign for re-election in the coming months,” he said.
The economy continues to suffer, and our part of the travel industry is suffering more than most.
This Congressional “stalemate,” which has been in effect since at least July, could be due to the closeness of November’s election, a resistance to adding to the nation’s deficit or the Democrats not wanting to give President Trump a win, said Eben Peck, executive vice president of ASTA.
“The reasons don’t matter too much, but the consequences do,” Peck said. “The economy continues to suffer, and our part of the travel industry is suffering more than most.”
Most of the federal aid — including The CARES Act and its loan programs, have either run dry or “malfunctioned completely,” Peck said, noting that ASTA recently joined the COVID Relief Now Coalition and continues to call Congress with travel advisor members to plead their case for additional relief and pushing for lawmakers to return to the negotiating table.
RELATED: ASTA: Survival of Travel Agencies Is Uncertain if Conditions Persist
"What’s the end game? We’re not sure,” Peck said. “There could be a deal before the election, after the election or a deal could have to wait into next year, which would be extremely frustrating.”
Adding to the industry’s economic loss is the extension of CDC’s No Sail Order — which since its March 14 implementation has been extended four times to April 9, July 16, Sept. 30 and now Oct. 31. ASTA believes it unfairly singles out the cruise industry and bypasses guidance on air and automobile transportation.
"People have made adjustments to manage health risks associated with life’s daily activities,” Kerby said, referencing that restaurants, malls, movie theaters, theme parks and airports are now open, while the CDC continues to extend the No Sail Order (note: approximately 3,600 infections and 41 deaths have been attributed to cruise ships).
"While all loss of life is tragic, with millions infected and over 200,000 dead, it appears that cruise ships are not the problem that needs the CDC’s attention,” he said. “What the CDC is saying is that there’s no safe speed for the cruise industry, and that there’s no combination of personal and company precautions that can be taken to safely return people to the seas, when literally every other activity has been left to find that balance.”
What the CDC is saying is that there’s no safe speed for the cruise industry, and that there’s no combination of personal and company precautions that can be taken to safely return people to the seas, when literally every other activity has been left to find that balance.
Because of CDC’s extension, Kerby and Peter Lobasso, senior vice president and general counsel for ASTA, say they haven’t ruled out suing CDC under the Federal Tort Claims Act (which allows certain lawsuits to be filed against the federal government for negligence or a wrongful act).
"We are under no illusions; it’s something of an uphill battle,” Lobasso said, adding that ASTA has been doing research to see if it’s feasible for them to proceed with such a lawsuit.
"There has been, frankly, irreparable damage to the travel industry, and so much of it is occasioned by the CDC’s inaction over these last six months,” he said. “We certainly feel that given the nature of the situation … it’s very important to leave no stone unturned.”
The DetailsAmerican Society of Travel Advisorswww.asta.org