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As the COVID-19 pandemic continues to rage, the increasing number of government restrictions on travel — including the recently introduced Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) requirement of a negative COVID-19 test for entry to the U.S., and the Canadian government’s extension of its cruise ship ban through early 2022 — is causing widespread job loss throughout the travel industry and putting many travel agencies at risk.
RELATED: These Are All the Ways That the Travel Industry Has Been Disproportionately Affected by the PandemicAccording to a survey of travel advisors recently conducted by the American Society of Travel Advisors (ASTA), average revenue loss among respondents is at a distressing 82%. Furthermore, even assuming they have access to assistance such as a second Paycheck Protection Program (PPP) loan, an Employee Retention Tax Credit (ERTC), unemployment benefits and other relief programs, more than 70% will fail in six months and 85% won’t make it beyond the next 12 months.
With such sobering statistics in mind, ASTA is making an aggressive push to engage with lawmakers on behalf of the travel industry overall, and for travel agencies specifically — a vast majority of which are small, female-owned businesses.
In a letter to CDC on Feb. 9, ASTA requested immediate guidance for the traveling public, noting that CDC’s numerous COVID-19-related orders “have created confusion, uncertainty and unpredictability, a chilling effect on future bookings and innumerable other challenges for our travel agency members.”
The letter further asked CDC to develop and publish a framework of “phases of safe reopening of travel based on positivity, infection and vaccination rates;” a rule or regulation to exempt fully vaccinated individuals from various travel restrictions; and the incorporation of technology applications such as the International Air Transport Association’s Travel Pass Initiative “to relax travel requirements for those who can establish vaccination, immunity or a negative test result.”
Thus far, financial support for the travel industry has been tragically inadequate, and especially in less visible sectors such as travel agencies.
In addition to requesting these specific actions from CDC (and other agencies), ASTA noted in a press statement that existing and potential government mandates must be met with increased support for the travel industry in order to avoid further economic fallout for an already-crippled industry.
“It seems intuitive that when government action, taken in the interest of protecting public health, has a disproportionally negative impact on a specific industry, as is the case here, it is a matter of fundamental fairness that the government provide targeted relief to the businesses most severely affected,” Zane Kerby, president and CEO of ASTA, said in the statement. “Thus far, financial support for the travel industry has been tragically inadequate, and especially in less visible sectors such as travel agencies.”
“We call on the Administration and Congress to take immediate steps to provide direct and targeted relief for as long as these restrictions on travel remain in effect through the creation of an emergency grant program for travel agencies and other travel-reliant small businesses,” Kerby continued. “We further recommend that legislative or regulatory action be taken to mitigate the impact of the Canadian government’s decision to suspend cruise operations in Canadian waters through February 2022, and that future relief be targeted to the most distressed sectors of the economy affected by government order.”
In an effort to amplify its advocacy message, ASTA is encouraging members to reach out to their Congressional representatives immediately, as Congress is expected to write and pass another round of COVID-19 relief legislation between now and mid-March. Travel advisors can visit www.asta.org/advocacy to contact lawmakers on relief priorities.
The DetailsAmerican Society of Travel Advisorswww.asta.org