ASTA to roll with the changes a Trump presidency may bring

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Trump in Gettysburg
President-elect Donald Trump on the campaign trail in October. Photo Credit: George Sheldon/Shutterstock.com

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 Tourism Caucus.

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 community."

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," he said.

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 would have.

"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.

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