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ASTA Sends Letter to Treasury Secretary on Behalf of Travel Advisors

Now that the CARES Act has been signed into law, ASTA is doing its part to continue to advocate on behalf of travel advisors.

In a webinar last week, the organization spelled out how this piece of legislation could provide relief to travel advisors. One of the ways in which the CARES Act sets aside money for struggling agencies is in a fund of $25 billion set aside for airlines and their ticket agents.

In the letter, ASTA President and CEO Zane Kerby highlights the dire situation in which travel advisors find themselves during the coronavirus outbreak and offers ASTA’s expertise in distributing these loans.

“As you might imagine, due to the coronavirus crisis and its impact on travel, new business has largely come to a halt in the past few weeks and layoffs and agency closures have begun in earnest,” writes Kerby. “As of March 19, 77 percent of ASTA members surveyed predicted they will be out of business in six months or less if current conditions hold.”

ASTA also advocates on behalf of travel advisors, offering their assistance in the distribution of loans.

“We offer any assistance you might need specific to Section 4003(b)(1) as you balance the competing interests,” Kerby writes in the letter, touting ASTA’s prior experience with matters such as these, including the distribution of funds from the mid-1990s $86 million court settlement related to airline commission cuts to its membership.

The letter closes with a message of hope.

“While it will take years for the travel agency industry to recover from this crisis, we believe several provisions of the CARES Act will help speed that recovery and put travel agencies in a position to serve clients once the economy rebounds.”

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ASTA Webinar: How Your Business Can Apply for CARES Act Financial Assistance

Travel agents who could currently use a helping hand will want to log on to the American Society of Travel Advisors’ (ASTA) upcoming webinar on Friday, March 27, 2020, at 2:00 p.m. ET to learn all about the new forms of financial and regulatory relief being made available to businesses through Congress’ new ‘Coronavirus Aid, Relief, and Economic Security’ (CARES) Act.

Through an unprecedented grassroots and lobbying effort, ASTA has been petitioning Congress, and successfully impacted the size and scope of the relief options afforded by the new bill.

In this exclusive webinar, experts who helped shape this legislation will present detailed information on the bill’s provisions and offer insight to help agents understand what options are available to them in terms of government-issued financial assistance, which options best suit their business and how they can begin the process of application.

Due to anticipated high traffic volumes, if viewers are unable to access the live presentation, please note that all registrants will also receive an emailed link to the recorded version immediately following the webinar, which will also be posted on the ASTA website’s Video Resources Library. Travel advisors are invited to register here.

For more information, visit asta.org/webinars.

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ASTA calling on airlines to shore up agent protections coronavirus

The U.S. airlines are currently seeking $58 billion in
federal relief due to the Covid-19 coronavirus crisis, and ASTA wants airlines to better clarify ticket refund and exchange
procedures as a part of any deal.

The Society has released a list of things it wants to airlines
to do for travel agent bookings:

• Ensuring travelers who have booked through an agency are
advised to contact their advisor to process refunds and exchanges rather than
directly on the carrier’s website.

• Ensuring all tickets are fully refundable and not merely
credited for future travel.

• Permitting travel advisors to process all refunds via ARC.

• Protecting original agency commissions/incentives on air
bookings should the tickets be exchanged or rebooked. 

• Protecting advisor commissions on refunded tickets.

• Confirming and/or clarifying that penalty charges or
change fees will not apply for canceled or rebooked flights during the Covid-19
crisis.

• Ensuring travelers the opportunity to use any credit
issued for unused tickets for a minimum of two years from the original
departure date.

• For those tickets booked on or after March 1, extending
the window for rebooking flights to one year from date of travel with no change
fees.

• Ensuring ancillary fees are fully refunded to the traveler
for any travel booked in 2020 and subsequently canceled.

In a statement, ASTA president and CEO Zane Kerby said he
commended suppliers that have already relaxed rebooking and cancellation
requirements, but that more relief is necessary. 

Kerby also specifically thanked suppliers who are paying
commissions and incentives at the time of booking, not at the time of travel.
He asked airlines to do the same.

“Recognizing the value travel advisors play in the booking
process and the trusted place in advisors by the traveling public will help
ensure the long-term success of the travel industry as it rebounds in a
post-Covid-19 world,” he said.

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ASTA Encourages Travel Advisors to Contact Local Legislators

The American Society of Travel Advisors (ASTA) is urging members to reach out to their Governors and state legislators for relief amid the coronavirus (COVID-19) outbreak.

In a message to travel advisors, ASTA called the ongoing crisis “the biggest challenge our industry has ever seen, 9/11 included.”

ASTA has established an online portal that advisors can use to reach out to their local government in a matter of minutes

“In the coronavirus crisis, we are facing the biggest challenge our industry has ever seen, 9/11 included,” ASTA stated. “While we are working on a number of proposals being discussed at the federal level to provide assistance to the travel industry and the broader economy, we can’t forget about state governments, which will play a key role in the response effort.”

“ASTA’s staff and outside lobbyists are working nonstop and doing everything they can to get relief for our industry, but your elected representatives at both the federal and state level need to hear from you during this time of crisis,” the organization added.

The prepared message states that there are $7 billion in Small Business Administration (SBA) disaster loans available and encourages a push for a program similar to the one implemented by New York City, where small businesses are eligible for interest-free loans. The message also seeks tax relief initiatives such as payroll tax suspension, deferrals, carryback of losses and policies to help laid-off employees.

Visit ASTA.org to contact your local legislators or for more information.

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ASTA urges GDSs to waive booking shortfall penalties

With the Covid-19 crisis sapping
travel demand, ASTA is encouraging suppliers to make commissions available to
travel advisors at the time of booking and GDSs to suspend or waive booking
shortfall penalties.

In a message to members, ASTA president and CEO Zane Kerby said
many suppliers have already revised commission payment practices so advisors
are paid when they make a booking as opposed to at the time clients travel.

“This support to the ASTA agency community, in recognition
of the value they bring to travel distribution, is greatly appreciated during
this difficult time, and especially by those small-business members whose
livelihoods have been gravely impacted,” Kerby said.

He thanked suppliers that have made the change and
encouraged others to do the same, recognizing the importance of the
distribution channel.

Kerby also wants GDSs to suspend or waive booking shortfall
penalties.

“Without question, the further financial hardship presented
by these penalties to the loyal agency community — so valued in the
distribution space — at a time when the impact to booking volumes is far
beyond their normal control warrants this consideration,” Kerby said.

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