PrevNext Policy By Johanna Jainchill / December 26, 2016 Share 1 -- When it comes to travel policy in 2017, one name is on everyone's mind: Trump.The travel industry is used to having to learn and adapt to new congressional makeups and presidential administrations. But in 2017, the unexpected election of Donald Trump to the presidency, coupled with the Republicans keeping both houses of Congress, presents an altogether different web of both challenges and opportunities."This president will come in with more of a hospitality background than any previous president. That's positive," said Jonathan Grella, executive vice president for public affairs of the U.S. Travel Association. "As an international businessman with hospitality holdings who has interests in American competitiveness and strengthening exports and trade balance, we feel we have a great story to tell."U.S. Travel has high hopes that Trump's promises on infrastructure translate into action on the nation's aging airport system. "In the first 100 days we suspect the president-elect will introduce a policy proposal on infrastructure," Grella said. "We're going to press congressional and administration leaders to ensure that airport modernization is a critical piece of that."On the other hand, Senate majority leader Mitch McConnell made it clear within days of Trump's victory that infrastructure was definitely not a top priority in a Republican Congress. It remains to be seen if Trump adequately countered that challenge by naming McConnell's wife, Elaine Chao, as his choice for secretary of transportation.U.S. Travel is also hoping that Trump, who Grella said is "reform-minded and looking to prove that he can fix a lot of long-standing bureaucratic challenges," might enable some serious changes at the TSA, such as giving it the flexibility to move resources around based on need and "get creative" with pricing when it comes, for example, to adding to the ranks of the Trusted Traveler programs such as PreCheck and Global Entry."President-elect Trump won't mind upsetting the apple cart, and the TSA is the perfect example if you want to prove you can cut through red tape and make things happen that make a difference to people," Grella said.An area where Trump could present a challenge to the industry is regarding the Visa Waiver Program (VWP), which enables vetted citizens of member countries to enter the U.S. without a visa for up to 90 days. It is the program through which half of the visitors to the U.S. arrive. The program came under scrutiny after the Paris attacks of November 2015 because the perpetrators were nationals of France, a visa-waiver country.Trump has publicly called for repealing the VWP, but he has also called for expanding it.In a March interview with Fox News, he said of the program, "It's time to stop that, absolutely." But he also expressed support for including Poland in the VWP, which would amount to its expansion.Another nebulous area is the future of open skies treaties, owing not only to Trump's campaign rhetoric but to global trends toward trade protectionism, most notably Brexit."We'll see if this protectionism, isolationist trend infects open skies agreements on the aviation front," Grella said. "It would be really unfortunate if it did. Once you start unraveling one agreement they can all unravel and [the agreements] have really been very successful and a system that really works for everyone."Trump is also at odds with the industry regarding Cuba policy. He has unnerved airlines, cruise lines, hotels and travel agents with tweets made during the campaign and again shortly after the death of Fidel Castro on Nov. 25, when he tweeted a threat to terminate the 2014 deal to normalize relations between the U.S. and Cuba if the island country was "unwilling to make a better deal for the Cuban people, the Cuban-American people and the U.S. as a whole."Eben Peck, ASTA's senior vice president for government and industry affairs, said, "Trump could turn back all the regulations that [President] Obama has put in over the past two years with the stroke of a pen. That would concern us greatly."From ASTA's perspective, there are many areas where Trump's expected positions would seem to align with travel agents' interests.The Society has high hopes that Congress will strike down the Department of Labor's overtime rule, which was to go into effect Dec. 1 but was temporarily blocked by a federal judge in Texas. If permitted, the rule would increase the maximum salary threshold at which full-time employees must be paid overtime to $47,476, from the previous threshold of $23,660."Had Clinton won, this would be the law of the land," Peck said. "We are confident this will be one of the Obama regulations Congress will overturn."Another area in which ASTA sees opportunity is in its quest to standardize the definition of an independent contractor, which Labor has recently tried to redefine but which had previously been regulated by the IRS, which ASTA prefers. Peck said ASTA is pushing to "harmonize" the rules on a federal level and feels a Republican Congress and administration will be receptive to that.ASTA will also continue fighting the DOT's proposed rules requiring agencies with an annual revenue of $100 million or more to adopt additional customer-service standards (for example, giving clients an option to hold a quoted reservation for 24 hours), and has asked for proposals affecting agencies be set aside.ASTA is also involved with several areas of states' policies that don't get much publicity but have great impact on agents' livelihoods, such as efforts to expand sales tax in ways that impact travel agencies and getting all states to adopt a standardized law enabling travel agents to sell travel insurance without a license. There are currently 43 states onboard, but "the hardest states are yet to come," Peck warned.Johanna Jainchill is Travel Weekly's news editor.