Forum: It's time to stand up for ASTA: Travel Weekly

Helen Enriquez joined Ensemble Travel Group in May 2017 and currently serves as its vice president of product development and technology solutions. She is also a board member of ASTA.

As we prepare to descend on the nation’s capital for ASTA’s annual Legislative Day on June 21, I wanted to encourage others to get involved in ASTA’s grassroots campaigns.

It is really not a stretch or exaggeration to say that what we do over the course of our time spent on Capitol Hill with ASTA impacts our industry for months and years to come. While ASTA has done a tremendous job of advocating for all of us who work in the consortia, host, agency or travel advisor business — particularly over the past two years — the Society can’t do it alone. For comparison, the airline industry has 187 lobbying organizations, the cruise industry has 17, and the hotels/lodging industry has 61. We have one.

And then there is you.

It’s no surprise that in a meeting with ASTA members and leadership, one well-known, long-serving senator plainly stated lawmakers had already provided $50 billion for travel relief during Covid and that there was no appetite to provide any additional relief for the travel industry. While it’s true that segments of our industry received that relief, travel advisors didn’t. As a result, many agencies were forced to close their doors.

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Sadly, the senator’s response wasn’t an aberration; it is the perception of many lawmakers who lump all travel together. That is why it is incumbent upon each of us to make sure our elected officials across all levels of government understand our industry and can protect our interests. ASTA has done an incredible job for us, saving the industry an estimated $630 million in new taxes, fees and other costs through legislative “wins” since 2012. But it can’t do it alone. It is incumbent upon each of us to mobilize and support ASTA’s efforts.

To that point, it was just last month when grassroots efforts resulted in defeating a Kentucky proposal to expand the state’s sales taxes to travel agency services, saving Kentucky agencies close to $2 million a year collectively in new taxes. And, last year, a bill in the Texas Legislature that would have applied new taxes to the fees and markups travel advisors charge clients for Texas hotel bookings likely would have passed if not for ASTA’s intervention and the mobilization of advisors.

Here are a few ways you can participate in the process to ensure ASTA and our industry remain ready to fight back next time this happens.

Meet your elected officials: Whether it’s part of a large, organized event such as ASTA’s Legislative Day, a small event you’re hosting in which you invite your local representatives to attend or a one-on-one meeting, meeting with your elected officials in person (or even over the phone), every connection is impactful. As a constituent and local business owner, you have power and you have leverage — use it to establish ongoing relationships with elected officials. ASTA even offers training on lobbying and how to hold a successful legislative meeting as well as tips on how to stay connected with your representatives.

Support ASTA PAC (Political Action Committee): Making even a small donation helps provide the financial resources needed to support candidates who understand the needs of our industry and will work on our behalf when travel is targeted for taxes or other legislative actions that would impair our industry.  As the only PAC for travel advisors, the funds are used specifically to educate elected officials about our issues and support of worthy, pro-travel advisor candidates.

Be part of the conversation: With so many verticals all vying for limited funding and support, it’s imperative our community unites to speak with one voice. It is not a question of if the travel industry will be targeted in the future and will need intervention, but when. And it’s incumbent on each of us to participate in the efforts led by ASTA to protect our interests. As has often been said, “if you’re not at the table, you’ll end up on the menu.”

Participate in ASTA’s call to action campaigns to Congress and our representatives.  You can add your personal message to the campaigns ASTA designs to ensure our legislative representatives hear us.  So let’s get loud, and help ASTA help us.

For more information on ASTA’s Legislative Day, go to

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