Following the election of Donald Trump, ASTA is concerned
that his administration might roll back President Obama's steps to normalize
relations with Cuba, but the trade group is confident it will continue to effectively
lobby on behalf of travel agents.
In an October Tweet, Trump said he would reverse President
Obama's loosening of restrictions on travel to Cuba.
"We've got a growing number of members participating in
the Cuba travel market, and how quickly he moves on this, whether he moves on
this at all, it's really impossible to say," said Eben Peck, ASTA's senior
vice president of government and industry affairs. "He's going to have a
number of priorities when he gets in there in January, but his last public
statement about this was that he's going to roll back Obama's regulatory
changes on Cuba, and that's of concern."
ASTA remains focused on its mission of representing travel
agents by monitoring issues of importance that could change with a new
administration. Peck did point out that a number of familiar, friendly
faces remain in Congress.
"Trump winning the presidency is a big change and
definitely surprising to a lot of people, but in terms of the makeup of
Congress, there was actually a surprisingly low amount of turnover considering
that the theme this year was 'throw the bums out,' anti-incumbent,
anti-Washington," he said. "There are a number of members who we've
been working with closely over the years, including contributing to their
campaigns through our political action committee, who won re-election."
"In terms of the makeup of Congress, there was actually a surprisingly low amount of turnover considering that the theme this year was 'throw the bums out,' anti-incumbent, anti-Washington." -- ASTA's Eben Pack
Among those are Senate Commerce chairman John Thune
(R-S.D.), likely Senate minority leader Chuck Schumer (D-N.Y.) and Sens. Roy
Blunt (R-Mo.) and Brian Schatz (D-Hawaii), co-chairs of the Senate Travel and
ASTA also supported House members who were re-elected,
including Transportation Committee chairman Bill Shuster (R-Pa.), Aviation
Subcommittee chairman Frank LoBiondo (R-N.J.) and ranking member Rick Larson
(D-Wash.), Travel and Tourism Caucus co-chairman Gus Bilirakis (R-Fla.), and
Small Business Committee ranking member Nydia Velazquez (D-N.Y.).
"ASTA's mission to represent the travel agency
community remains unchanged," ASTA president and CEO Zane Kerby said. "ASTA
has maintained relationships with lawmakers and regulators that span years and
decades. Building on our success since 1931, ASTA is excited to begin 2017 with
a renewed focus on both advocacy and consumer awareness initiatives, and a
continued commitment to be the one, unified voice for the travel agency
Besides Cuba, Peck said that ASTA will be tracking FAA
reauthorization and the Department of Labor's new overtime rules.
A package funding the FAA through September 2017 was signed
into law in July. Peck said he expected Congress to attempt to pass a long-term
bill lasting several years.
ASTA was pleased with the bill passed this summer, as it did
not impose new disclosure obligations on travel agents that an earlier draft
had included. Peck predicted a similar landscape for the potential passage of a
long-term FAA reauthorization bill.
"If Democrats had taken over one or both chambers in
Congress, it would have dramatically changed the outlook, I think, but with
Republican control I think it's going to be a redo of what happened last year,"
Overtime rules are currently set to change in December, when
the salary threshold under which employees are guaranteed overtime pay will
rise from $23,660 to $47,476.
According to Peck, ASTA believes the Trump administration
will be more likely to make changes to the rule than a Clinton administration
"I want to stress that this is almost complete
speculation at this point," he said.
In a related issue, ASTA is petitioning the Labor Department
to remove travel agents from a so-called "blacklist" that blocks them
from using a retail exemption for overtime rules.
"Again, we think a Trump Department of Labor, whenever
they get to it, would be more likely to approve that change and take travel
agencies off the blacklist than the current DOL," he said.