ASTA and its Canadian counterpart, the Association of Canadian Travel Agencies (ACTA), are urging the U.S. and Canada to reopen borders for travel between the neighboring countries.

"While it will take several years for our part of the travel industry to return to health, taken together with the urgently needed additional relief funding from our legislatures, we believe that safely reopening U.S.-Canada travel will help speed the recovery and put travel agencies in a position to serve the traveling public," ASTA president and CEO Zane Kerby said in a statement.

"We stand ready to work with you and your staff to develop a plan to clearly spell out how and when we will restart travel between Canada and the U.S.," he said, "with the objective of releasing it prior to June 21, when the existing Canadian border measures are set to potentially be renewed."

Kerby and ACTA president Wendy Paradis this week sent a joint letter to U.S. secretary of state Antony Blinken and secretary of homeland security Alejandro Mayorkas as well as Canada minister of transport Omar Alghabra and minister of health Patty Hajdu.

In the letter, they ask -- on behalf of the collective 180,000 travel agency employees in both countries -- that officials make restarting U.S.-Canada travel "an immediate priority.

Due largely to government restrictions on travel, they wrote, the average travel agency last year was down 82% in the U.S. and 95% in Canada. They also said the lag time between when agents book travel and when they are paid was an additional hurdle agents face in their recovery.

"While securing additional financial relief for our members from our respective governments remains the top priority for both associations, responsibly reopening travel between our two great countries is a critical needed step in order for meaningful recovery of the travel agency sector to occur," they wrote.

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