Officials at the American Society of Travel Agents were up with the roosters Wednesday morning breaking down what impact the impending Donald Trump presidency will have on its members.
The initial reaction? The sky is not falling. Trump is a known entity in the travel industry and he understands the needs and the challenges that travel experts face. The organization's first take is that with one party now fully in power in Washington, some pro-agent legislation is likely to move forward, while other less helpful measures could be delayed.
Here's the organization's full letter to its members:
November 9, 2016
As the dust settles from yesterday's election, here is our initial analysis on what the election results mean for our industry and your business. Republican Donald Trump was elected President, and Republicans maintained control of both the U.S. Senate and House of Representatives, giving the party unified control of both the White House and Congress for the first time since 2007.
ASTA will continue to represent our members in Washington, D.C. and support policies and policymakers who champion the travel agency community. While much is undetermined, it is possible to assess how the new Administration and Congressional landscape will impact some of the policy priorities ASTA is pursuing on behalf of our members, including:
FAA Reauthorization – Republicans will now fully control the process of developing this "must-pass" legislation expiring in September 2017, which sets aviation policy generally and authorizes the collection of federal aviation taxes. Republican committee members might be more receptive to airline efforts to include the so-called Transparent Airfares Act (which ASTA has opposed since it was introduced in 2014) but at the same time are likely to be open to ASTA's ideas for reducing the overall regulatory burden on travel agents who sell air.
Overtime/Blacklist – On December 1, new Department of Labor (DOL) rules go into effect that more than double the salary threshold under which virtually all employees are guaranteed overtime, from $23,660 to $47,476 per year, with automatic increases in future years. While ASTA is supporting legislative efforts to kill or delay the rule, we are also petitioning DOL to remove travel agencies from a "blacklist" blocking them from using the retail exemption from overtime rules. We believe a Trump Administration DOL is more likely to roll back or delay the overtime rules and grant our blacklist petition than a Clinton Administration DOL would have been.
Independent Contractors – For years, Congressional Democrats and the Obama Administration have been pushing measures to crack down on the use of independent contractors (ICs), a key issue for ASTA given the estimated 20,000 ICs in our industry. After last night, legislative initiatives on this front will continue to go nowhere, while the overall regulatory environment for ICs at the DOL, Internal Revenue Service, etc. is likely to improve. At the same time, conditions are now ripe for passing legislation to harmonize the conflicting "tests" the government uses to determine if a worker is an employee or an IC, which will be a major focus of ASTA's advocacy efforts in 2017.
Cuba Travel – This is the most concerning from our point of view. While the statutory “travel ban” remains, the Obama Administration opened up Cuba travel regulations as far as they can go without changing the law, including allowing individual travelers to go to Cuba (and travel agents to sell Cuba) without a government license as long as the type of travel is authorized. Early in the campaign President-Elect Trump signaled he was not opposed to opening Cuba, but in mid-October he tweeted a reversal while campaigning in Florida: "The people of Cuba have struggled too long ...Will reverse Obama's Executive Orders and concessions towards Cuba until freedoms are restored." How and even whether he will follow through on this given the many other priorities he'll have upon assuming office is impossible to know today. ASTA remains committed to the notion that Americans should be allowed to travel across the globe without restriction, allowing them to act as ambassadors of freedom and American values abroad.
In terms of the makeup of Congress, last night didn't bring much in the way of turnover, including on the key committees that ASTA regularly engages such as the Senate Commerce, Science and Transportation Committee and the House Transportation and Infrastructure Committee.
Thanks to our members' investment in our political action committee, ASTAPAC, we were able to participate in the political process this year and support a number of key legislators for reelection, including Senate Commerce Chairman John Thune (R-SD), Incoming Senate Democratic Leader Charles Schumer (D-NY) and Senate Travel and Tourism Caucus Co-Chairs Roy Blunt (R-MO) and Brian Schatz (D-HI).
On the House side, reelected members ASTAPAC supported include Transportation Committee Chairman Bill Shuster (R-PA), Aviation Subcommittee Chair Frank LoBiondo (R-NJ) and Ranking Member Rick Larsen (D-WA), Travel and Tourism Caucus Co-Chair Gus Bilirakis (R-FL) and Small Business Committee Ranking Member Nydia Velazquez (D-NY).
We look forward to working with the new Administration and Congressional leaders toward a legislative, regulatory and business landscape favorable to ASTA members. We will have a busy year ahead, so keep an eye on your inbox for ASTA member alerts – sent when we most need help on the Hill or with the Administration. Also, please keep abreast of what's going on by regularly visiting the Advocacy section of our website.