On Sept. 30, the American Society of Travel Advisors (ASTA) will kick off its first virtual, live Advocacy Awareness Day, a crucial day that all U.S. travel advisors should mark on their calendar.
The Awareness Day helps replace ASTA’s Advocacy Dinner, which is unable to be held in person because of COVID-19. The Advocacy Dinner, usually held during ASTA’s Global Convention, is regularly the single biggest fund raising night for the PAC and without it, especially during a time when ASTA is more critical than ever, Sept. 30’s Awareness Day becomes even more vital.
“Every year we look forward to the advocacy dinner, but we are not able to do one because of COVID-19,” Jennifer Wilson-Buttigieg told Travel Market Report this week. “We thought, how can we not only recognize donors but get a grass roots effort in, and that’s how we ended up on the virtual ASTA Advocacy Awareness Day.”
The day will feature one hour increments of sessions 10 to 15 minutes long on Facebook Live starting at 10:00 a.m. and running to 5:30 p.m., hosted by GIFTED Travel Network’s Vanessa McGovern and Paradise Vacation Escapes’ Shannon Cunningham. Guests include ASTA executives such as Zane Kerby, Genevieve Strand, and Eben Peck and other leading voices in the travel trade.
Aside from raising awareness for ASTA’s advocacy efforts, including its media campaigns, the day will also help raise some funds for ASTAPAC, which has become more crucial than ever.
“Things don’t happen overnight in Washington,” Wilson-Buttigieg said. “To influence change in Congress takes time and it’s not just your $5 or $25,000 donation, it’s the speaking in one voice. It’s actually having a unified travel community.”
Wilson-Buittigieg told TMR that ASTAPAC’s 2020 goal was around $450,000 prior the pandemic, and now, with COVID-19’s impact, “if we got to $400,000 I think it would be good news because we would have something in our bank accounts for the future.” Year-to-date, the PAC is currently at a little more than $200,000 (47% of the year’s goal) with two-thirds of 2020 gone, which, Wilson-Buttigieg said, are “decent numbers considerably we’re living through the biggest crisis the industry has ever faced.”
The easiest way to donate is via text messaging—texting 71777 at any time today or especially during the Awareness Day. The Facebook Live event will feature a scrolling count of donations and names of those who have sent money to the PAC so that they can be recognized as key supporters of the trade.
“If you look at it, if there are still 100,000 advisors in the industry and everyone put $5 in that would be $500,000 and be hugely positive for ASTA and for the agency community’s future,” she said.
To emphasis the importance of the PAC, Wilson-Buttigieg pointed to how ASTA represented the trade in Washington during talks for the CARES Act, which was one of the organization’s biggest and most publicized wins, but also ASTA’s impact on talks with AB5 in California and being removed from the DOL’s Blacklist ruling from earlier this year.
“Had AB5 passed, ICs in the state of California could not have functioned the way they currently are. It’s that simple,” she said. “You would take all the entrepreneurial aspects out of being IC. Sadly, there are so many ICs that still don’t know about ASTA.”
The blacklist ruling, a four year battle ASTA undertook to allow agencies to operate with an exemption from the enforcement of overtime rules, “was a huge win on everybody’s behalf,” she said.
And now is not the time to lose that momentum from that CARES Act inclusion or the blacklist ruling, Wilson-Buttigieg said, even as the industry continues to hurt.
“I’m not one that gives up, and I certainly wouldn’t give up on an industry I’m so passionate about. The pandemic was unimaginable. It was almost like a series of grief – it’s a community,” she said. “This is an industry that survived 9/11 and SARS, MERS, and the Wall Street financial meltdown. If we’re a sports team, those were almost like our practice rounds. This is what we have been training for and by no means should we give up now.”
There is no registration or invitation needed for advisors to attend Awareness Day. Those who want to RSVP can do so on ASTA’s Facebook page.