November 5, 2005
NTA Records Banner Legislative Year
November 5, 2005 – The National Tour Association recorded another successful year for government and industry relations during a critical time for the travel and tourism industry. With the help of industry partners and the association’s Grassroots Action Network, NTA earned several key legislative victories.
NTA Government Relations Committee Chairman Carol Jordan, NTA Legislative Counsel Jim Santini, and NTA President Hank Phillips, CTP, participated in a media forum on Saturday at the 2005 NTA Annual Convention.
"First and foremost, I want to express gratitude to Carol Jordan and to the Government Relations Committee members who were the primary points of contact for congressional action this year," Santini stated. "Without the constituents contacting either their house/senate members, we wouldn’t be able to get the job done."
During the forum, Santini stressed, "It’s been the best of times and the worst of times for the travel and tourism industry this year. While there are several issues facing travel professionals, NTA and its members have had a very success year overall."
NTA legislative highlights include:
NTA, in conjunction with other organizations, spearheaded the drive to create a tourism entity within the Department of Homeland Security to serve as a liaison to the tourism industry. This year, a special assistant to the director of DHS position was modified to include a tourism responsibility. NTA and other industry leaders have met with the special assistant, Alfonso Martinez-Fonts, on several occasions, and he has promised to be an advocate for the tourism industry.
NTA played a key role in the inaugural conference call meeting of the Passport Coalition. The coalition is comprised of other industry association representatives along with many Canadian travel professionals, and it’s designed to focus on the looming passport requirements as outlined in the Western Hemisphere Travel Initiative. The group’s goals are to postpone the implementation of the initiative until Jan.1, 2008, and allow other forms of identification to serve as valid travel documents for U.S./Canada/Mexico travel. NTA also is pushing to lower passport fees for students and seniors to a maximum of $50.
Immediately following Hurricane Katrina, NTA began working with the Small Business Administration to assist in disaster recovery loans for its members. Director of Small Business Loan Assistance, Gary Jackson, in a telephone discussion with NTA Legislative Counsel Jim Santini, pledged to assist NTA members in every possible way in order to get their businesses back to normal.
NTA sent a letter to President Bush urging him to make rebuilding the tourism industry in the Gulf Coast a priority of his administration. In a letter signed by NTA Chairman and CEO Ann Thomas, CTP, NTA noted that tourism restoration, development and promotion are an investment and investing in travel and tourism will generate additional tax revenues and will aide the recovery of this region.
In an effort to make up for fuel shortages and assist in the preservation our nation’s natural resources, NTA distributed a news release encouraging group travel as the best form of fuel conservation for travelers.
At the 2005 Grassroots Symposium, NTA members urged their Congressional representatives to contact the U.S. Department of Labor regarding the status of tour directors. More voices are needed, and NTA is asking members to help by writing their legislators and suggesting they contact the Department of Labor and encourage it to issue an opinion letter on the tour director overtime issue.
In March, NTA voiced support for the "Save Our Small and Seasonal Business Act of 2005," legislation known as S. 352 and H.R. 793. The United States stopped accepting applications for H-2B visas because the congressionally mandated cap on foreign workers had been reached for the fiscal year. NTA was concerned that staffing shortages, due to the lack of access to foreign guest workers, would negatively impact the experience of tourists visiting hotels and attractions on packaged vacations. Congress has since passed key provisions of the "Save our Small and Seasonal Business Act of 2005," which would allow tourism-related businesses to have access to foreign guest workers.
NTA opposed the Bush administration’s proposal to increase air security fees. Under the proposal, air passengers could pay as much as $16 per roundtrip, compared to $10 currently.
NTA continued its work with the National Park Service. NTA members Ed Dresel, Martin Elson, Mark Hoffmann and Mike Neustadt met with NPS officials on July 12 concerning the status of the new concessioner contract for transportation to and from the Statue of Liberty. NTA Legislative Counsel Jim Santini, who participated in the meeting via conference call, reiterated the point that increased transportation costs to the Statue are, in effect, increases in the price of admission and tour operators should be given a 12 month notice of any such increases.
The National Tour Association has a global membership of nearly 4,000 tourism professional members involved in the growth and development of the packaged travel industry. Its membership includes tour operators – group, independent, inbound and outbound – and the destinations and suppliers that partner with them. The association is committed to providing business results and information to its members, while offering a collaborative, caring environment in which to build relationships. For more information, please visit http://preseason.ntaonline.com/.
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