we travel agents keep doing what weve always done, well continue
getting what weve always gotten.
Thats the lesson
were repeating in Pennsylvania, where legislators continue to push
for a seller-of-travel law requiring travel agents to register and
secure a bond if they want to stay in business.
Trade groups have
talked extensively with Pennsylvania officials about House Bill
169. In fact, the Outside Sales Support Network (OSSN) and ARTA
historically have opposed seller-of-travel laws across the board.
We simply dont believe regulators have ever made the case, in any
jurisdiction, for saddling travel agencies with more rules,
registration fees and bonding expenses than other small
If any sellers of travel
defraud Pennsylvania consumers, then throw the book at them, but
dont penalize every mom-and-pop agency and home-based agent for
those few bad apples.
More than a dozen
states have some form of a seller-of-travel law on the books, and
shame on us if we dont apply what weve learned from those laws as
we fight in Pennsylvania:
" The crooks dont
register, plain and simple.
storefront agencies and home-based agents open their wallets and
comply with these rules, the scam artists typically ignore them.
How easy is it for travel scammers to make up registration numbers
and claim to be bonded, so that they can continue taking in money
until state authorities stumble over them some day?
" Travel suppliers
should stop getting a free ride.
seller-of-travel laws in most states, Pennsylvanias draft bill
exempts airlines, cruise lines, hotels, and car rental
Why do we believe
thats completely unfair? Think Regency Cruises, Premier Cruise
Lines, Renaissance Cruises, National Airlines, Vanguard Airlines,
Far & Wide, Fling Vacations and Kingdom Tours.
legislators in Pennsylvania and other states to stop offering these
traditional exemptions for suppliers, whose possible collapse could
cause much higher losses for consumers than any scam or bankruptcy
traced to a single travel agent.
" The big, national
travel agencies also do not deserve a free ride.
The latest draft of
the Pennsylvania legislation specifically exempts AAA, American
Express, Cendant, Orbitz, Expedia, Travelocity, Hotels.com,
Priceline.com, Hotwire.com and other national travel
ARTA and OSSN
absolutely oppose this exemption. Its completely unfair to give
these big agencies a free pass while Pennsylvanias small travel
agencies are left holding the bag.
Weve discussed this
inequity with our friends in the National Federation of Independent
Business and the Pennsylvania Chamber of Business and Industry.
Pennsylvanias legislators can expect a tough fight if they follow
through with this huge loophole for the big guys.
" We need to fight
travel scams from the ground up -empowering consumers, not
When we met with
officials at the Pennsylvania State Capitol in Harrisburg this
month, we proposed a public-private partnership to teach the states
consumers how to recognize, avoid and report travel
Were planning tests
of these travel-rights campaigns in January (during Wave Month) in
Harrisburg and Philadelphia, and well spend our time in the spring
sharing the results with every member of the Pennsylvania General
No one hates travel
scams and cons more than Americas hard-working, professional travel
agents. Its high time, however, that we stand up more forcefully
for new directions in state seller-of-travel laws that wont leave
us holding the bag for everyone else.
Gary Fee is
president and founder of the Outside Sales Support Network. Alan
Fiermonte owns Down2EarthAdventures in Conshohocken, Pa. John Hawks
serves as president of ARTA. Barry Richcreek co-owns Richcreek
Vacation Center in Harrisburg, Pa., with his wife,