With the American Recovery Plan (ARP) now in effect, the American Society of Travel Advisors (ASTA) has taken the time to highlight some of the benefits travel advisors can expect from this massive $1.9 trillion legislative package.

Live on Facebook, ASTA President and CEO Zane Kirby and Executive Vice President of Advocacy Eben Peck spoke with tourism advisors about new research showing positive changes in the industry, how the legislation will affect tourism advisors, and what they plan to ask Congress in the future.

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President and CEO of ASTA Zane Kerby. (Courtesy of ASTA)

Kirby began with the good news: More than ever, consumers believe that life can return to normal sooner than they thought.

ASTA research in the 19th Wave Back to Normal Barometer shows that more and more people are lining up to get vaccinated, even those who were initially skeptical.

Studies have shown that the desire to travel is the main reason for vaccination. Sixty-seven percent of respondents agreed that vaccination would eliminate the need to travel.

The study also found that Americans feel the government is not doing enough to support the tourism industry and they want this disparity to be corrected.

Sixty percent of Americans think the government helps large travel companies more than small and medium-sized companies, and 60 percent also think the government doesn’t do enough to help travel advisors.

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We also know that elected officials have done a lot for large travel companies like airlines and hotels, but much less for less visible industries, Kirby said.

Kirby highlighted ASTA’s partnership with Politico, noting that Politico is one of the most widely read and respected media outlets for legislators and their staff.

We have taken this unprecedented direct mail action in a place where lawmakers are probably looking them in the face, Kirby said.

ASTA is taking this step in addition to its grassroots lobbying efforts.

Peck then identified the sections of the more than 600-page bill that would most benefit travel advisors.

The PRA extended unemployment benefits to $300 per week and extended eligibility for SC to age 6. September 2021. The bill also excludes unemployment benefits up to $10,200 from a person’s gross income for tax year 2020 if your gross income is less than $150,000.

Companies will also benefit from an extension of the Earned Income Tax Credit (EITC) until the end of 2021.

The ARP also includes $15 billion to enable SIA borrowers to receive the full $10,000 grant that was eliminated when the Small Business Association became overwhelmed with applicants. Priority is given to borrowers with severe income losses and borrowers from low-income communities.

The PRA also included $350 billion in state and local budgets that can be made available to travel and tourism companies. Peck noted that TAs and counselors will likely see the money in the form of statewide grants, similar to existing programs in California, Massachusetts and Virginia.

ASTA will continue to advocate for programs not included in the bill, including the inclusion of travel agencies in the Closed Space Grant Program and the expansion of the PPP loan program for severely impacted industries.

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