THE AMERICAN SOCIETY OF TRAVEL ADVISORS (ASTA) IS CALLING FOR GOVERNMENT SUPPORT AND CLEARER TRAVEL GUIDELINES TO ASSIST ITS TRAVEL AGENCY MEMBERS.
As governments and the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) put forth more travel restrictions, ASTA is calling for clarity to prevent further economic damage to the industry and financial support for travel agencies, which are finding it difficult to survive during the pandemic.
ASTA president and CEO Zane Kerby issued a statement calling on the government for assistance for the industry in addition to sending a letter to the CDC asking for clear guidance.
“ASTA acknowledges that our country is in the midst of the biggest public health crisis in U.S. history and that continued action is necessary to slow the spread of COVID-19,” said Kerby’s statement. “However, it is undeniable that government mandates here and abroad—the most recent examples being the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention’s (CDC) requirement of a negative COVID test for entry to the U.S., and the Canadian government’s announcement that it is closing its ports to cruise ships through early 2022—have had a catastrophic impact on the travel and hospitality industry. The travel-reliant jobs that have survived nearly a year without meaningful business and revenue (and many have not) are at immediate risk of collapse through no fault of their own.
“Existing and contemplated travel restrictions create uncertainty, fail to acknowledge effective safety measures already in place, divert focus and resources from needed areas and will and have done little to stop or tame the virus’ spread,” he noted. “It seems intuitive that when government action, taken in the interest of protecting public health, has a disproportionally negative impact on a specific industry, as is the case here, it is a matter of fundamental fairness that the government provide targeted relief to the businesses most severely affected.”
Kerby also noted the heavy cost the travel industry has endured throughout the pandemic, pointing out that most travel agencies are small, female-owned businesses and asking that the government step in to aid these companies with targeted relief.
“Thus far, financial support for the travel industry has been tragically inadequate, and especially in less visible sectors such as travel agencies,” he pointed out. “Our elected officials must take responsibility for the consequences of their actions as well as those of the regulators they charge with managing public health. We call on the Administration and Congress to take immediate steps to provide direct and targeted relief for as long as these restrictions on travel remain in effect through the creation of an emergency grant program for travel agencies and other travel-reliant small businesses.
ASTA also called for action regarding Canada’s cruise ban.
“We further recommend that legislative or regulatory action be taken to mitigate the impact of the Canadian government’s decision to suspend cruise operations in Canadian waters through February 2022 and that future relief be targeted to the most distressed sectors of the economy affected by government order,” Kerby said.
Additionally, in a letter to the CDC, ASTA has also asked for guidance for the traveling public, including a framework at the state level to determine phases of the safe reopening of travel based on positivity, infection, and vaccination rates; a rule or regulation exempting vaccinated people from travel restrictions; and the incorporation of technology applications to relax travel requirements on those who are vaccinated.
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