The Beacon: In a Critical Year, Legislative Day Exceeds Expectationsby Eben Peck, Executive Vice President, Advocacy, American Society of Travel Advisors (ASTA) /
Last month, more than 200 travel agency executives and supplier partners from 43 states came together in Washington, D.C. under the banner of the American Society of Travel Advisors (ASTA) for our annual congressional “fly-in,” ASTA Legislative Day.
Legislative Day - or “Leg Day” with a soft “g” - is a member-only event that brings travel advisors to D.C. to meet in person with Members of Congress and staff to educate policymakers about our part of the industry and advocate for policies that benefit our businesses and clients. Before attending congressional meetings pre-scheduled by ASTA, we train attendees on how congressional offices are structured, Hill meeting best practices, and dive deep into the policy issues to be discussed. This training – close to six hours’ worth, online and in-person, this year – ensures that attendees feel confident advocating for our industry and themselves.
Leg Day is the centerpiece of our annual advocacy work, the ASTA Advocacy team’s Super Bowl. We had some extra wind in our sails this year, since 12 days before the event the Biden administration abruptly dropped the dreaded “inbound testing rule” that ASTA and others had been fighting for the better part of 2022. On the whole, Leg Day did not disappoint this year. By the numbers:
- 216 attendees from 43 states, both records;
- 196 Congressional meetings, 45 of which were with the Members of Congress themselves, both records;
- Three ASTA Global Travel Advocate Awards were presented to industry champions - Sen. Jacky Rosen (D-NV), Sen. Roy Blunt (R-MO), and Rep. Carol Miller (R-WV);
- 19 bipartisan cosponsors added so far for our priority bills, the Employee Retention Tax Credit Reinstatement Act (R. 6161/S. 3625) and the Visit America Act (H.R. 6965/S. 3375); and
- $50,000 raised for ASTA’s political efforts by Vanessa McGovern and Shannon Cunningham of Gifted Travel Network (you can watch their June 22 live stream on ASTA’s Facebook page).
Having done this work for over twenty years, I can say with certainty - there is nothing more impactful than constituents coming to DC to meet with their legislators face to face. Members of Congress are inundated daily with phone calls, emails, and other pleas on every conceivable policy issue.
Nothing focuses the mind like constituents taking the time and expense to come to DC and advocate in person. Those who attended Legislative Day were critical to helping us move the ball down the field toward our advocacy goals. Advocacy is a year-round activity, but Leg Day is central to what we do in Washington.
It’s about more than just advancing a policy agenda, though. It's about educating Members of Congress and their staff about how the travel agency industry works, what we do for their constituents, and the fact that advisors are a central part of the travel experience. Perhaps most importantly, it’s a way for our members to participate in their democracy. The U.S. Constitution guarantees every American the right to “petition the government for a redress of grievances.” Though our grievances may be less intense than they were at the height of COVID, plenty remains and bringing them forward is what Leg Day is all about.
Don’t just take my word for it. One attendee noted in her post-event survey, “Legislative Day is the most powerful and most unique event in the travel advisor/supplier industry. To discuss travel-related issues with our legislators, in person, makes more of an impression than anything we can do to get our message out!”
Another, after her second Legislative Day, said “I highly encourage everyone to get involved. This is not about ‘politics,’ this is about advocating for your industry. I was so inspired by my experience last year that I have since gotten involved in my local community as a member of my township's Board of Trustees.” A third attendee, a first timer, observed that Leg Day “is an intense but quick education for travel advisors to step out from behind their computer and phones to help themselves in their daily battle with behind the scenes travel issues that affect their daily business.”
Save the date for next year – June 20-21, 2023. We hope you can join us!