Travel Agents Have Voices Heard in D.C. During ASTA's Legislative Day

by Richard D’Ambrosio
Travel Agents Have Voices Heard in D.C. During ASTA's Legislative Day

Agents outside of the Capitol.


Nearly 150 agents converged on Washington, D.C. this week to address their key issues before Congress, and by all estimates, the profession is being heard.

Holding more than 120 meetings with House and Senate staff, agents and association leaders attending the American Society of Travel Agents’ (ASTA) Legislative Day 2018 told Travel Market Report that they felt their concerns were well-received and that they increased the prospect of laws that would benefit both the industry and consumers.

ASTA executives said they were especially encouraged by the record number of participants (147) walking the halls of Congress this year, nearly 50 percent higher than 2017, and double the number of attendees in 2016.

This was the fourth Legislative Day for Dave Hershberger, ASTA vice chair and president of Prestige Travel in Cincinnati, Ohio. He said he was very satisfied with how he and other agents were received this year.

“I have found the receptiveness from the congressional aides to be very high. I'm amazed at their insightfulness and understanding of the issues.  Most of them were very interested in what we had to say,” Hershberger said.

He noted how an aide in Ohio Senator Rob Portman's office, “was able to pull our concerns into the bigger picture and relate how they could/would fit into certain legislative actions.”

“We’re beyond the days of legislators and aides asking ‘Travel agents? Are you still around?’” said Eben Peck, ASTA executive vice president, advocacy, who has participated in four Legislative Days during his tenure.

“Now, it’s ‘Good to see you again. I remember you from last year. Let’s talk about the issues.’ It’s a more advanced and productive discussion than several years ago. The staffers are more up to speed, and we have to spend less time on the issue, and we can move more directly into the ask.”

Another part of this year’s success, Peck said, is that the agents attending have polished their skills, both in their preparation and ability to articulate the profession’s need.

“It’s a higher level of citizen lobbying, and it’s opening doors for us to get things done,” he said.

Agents outside Senate Building.
Lesgislative Day participators strolling in front of the Senate Building in D.C..

In an earlier career, Andrea da Rosa, director of marketing communications at Balboa Travel in San Diego spent one-and-a-half years on Capitol Hill as a scheduler in the House of Representatives. This week, she visited with her local representative’s office, as well as several other influential legislators during her busy day.

She said she felt ASTA has been doing a better job each year preparing members for the event and that personally, the more she progressed through her appointments, the more comfortable she became speaking about the issues, and asking for support.

The three key issues ASTA focused on during this legislative session are: limiting travel agents’ need to provide verbal disclosures currently included in the FAA Reauthorization bill before Congress; gaining support for the Travel Agent Retail Fairness Act (H.R. 2515), which would remove agents from a Department of Labor “blacklist”; and harmonization of various federal independent contractor rules.

Attendees took the opportunity to help their Congressional representatives understand the personal impact to them as small business owners, and to their employees, a tactic they were encouraged to employ during sessions the day before their time on Capitol Hill.

Matt Bormet, vice president, Banner Public Affairs, noted how critical it is for agents to both engage in advocacy, and personalize the impact of legislation before Congress given that they are up against larger, better financed voices, like the airlines.

“It’s important for us to go out there and counter the airline measures,” he said.

Agents encouraged to engage legislators at home too
While ASTA and other organizations supporting Legislative Day emphasized the importance of meeting legislators on Capitol Hill, they also reminded attendees that they might find better success setting up discussions with their Congress members at home.

“It’s vital to get time with them back home,” said Greg Scott, president with Merevir Consulting, a lobbying firm. He explained how when legislators and their staff return to their homes for weekends and during recess, they are more connected with voters, less harried by their busy Washington schedules, and more inclined to feel indebted to constituents reaching out to them.

“Here in Washington, your legislators are selling time to you. At home, they are buying time from you,” he said.

There is no better place for a legislator and/or staffer to understand the plight of an agent, than in their office, if your workspace is conducive to a visit, he said.

 

  1
  0
Tip of the Day
The professional travel advisor’s job is to equip the traveler with the necessary information to enable a good decision that will reflect that person’s own risk tolerance.
 
Paul Ruden
Daily Top List

Most Powerful Passports in the World

1. United Arab Emirates

2. Singapore

3. Germany

4. Denmark

5. Sweden

Source: Passport Index

TMR Recommendations
Top Stories
House Calls Are Trending, Travel Agents Say
House Calls Are Trending, Travel Agents Say

With more travel advisors working from home, going to the client’s home is a natural and successful next step, especially in the luxury and destination-wedding markets.

Headquarter Happenings: Cruise Planners Celebrates 25 Years of Success
Headquarter Happenings: Cruise Planners Celebrates 25 Years of Success

The travel agency franchise network bought in early to the home-based business model, and is now passing those benefits onto travel professionals.

‘Boundless Selling’: Seven Reasons to Return to the Same Destination
‘Boundless Selling’: Seven Reasons to Return to the Same Destination

This selling tactic helps travel advisors create unlimited opportunities for clients to have that new-destination feeling on return visits to familiar destinations.

Cruise Execs Share Their Best Sales Tips with Agents
Cruise Execs Share Their Best Sales Tips with Agents

Whether travel advisors use social media or participate in local community groups to find customers, it’s all about making a human connection that inspires trust.

Headquarter Happenings: Signature Urges Advisors to Double Down on Being a Unique Travel Resource
Headquarter Happenings: Signature Urges Advisors to Double Down on Being a Unique Travel Resource

When considering everything, from their brand promise to building supplier relationships, advisors are encouraged to follow their hearts to create a unique brand.

Tips to Develop Your Media Presence and Drive New Sales Leads
Tips to Develop Your Media Presence and Drive New Sales Leads

One Phoenix-based travel advisor is driving new sales leads by leveraging her journalism background and local television contacts.

News Briefs
TMR Report Cards & Outlooks
Advertiser's Voice
Advertiser's Voice: Tauck