The American Society of Travel Advisors (ASTA) has issued an update as wide-ranging efforts to respond to the coronavirus (COVID-19) crisis are underway.

Travel professionals seeking specific information and resources during this time should visit ASTA.org/COVID19member for detailed information about how travel advisors can access relief under the Coronavirus Aid, Relief, and Economic Security (CARES) Act signed into law on March 27. This member-only resource page will provide you in-depth support.

“For weeks, travel advisors have been working around the clock, getting clients home from far-flung places, rebooking postponed dream holidays, and assisting companies who are postponing and cancelling meetings and events,” said Zane Kerby, ASTA president & CEO. “This is what your trade association was built for, and ASTA is here to help you through this crisis. Our team of experts is working around the clock to get you to the front of the line for any and all relief options. We encourage you to plan now for the future success of your business, and our industry.” 

While Waiting for Final Guidance, Get in Line Now
As we wait for final guidance and instructions regarding implementation of the massive $2 trillion coronavirus relief package  the CARES Act , ASTA on Monday shared interim recommendations with members. In it, ASTA provides specific guidance for: 1. agencies with 500 or more employees and 2. agencies with fewer than 500 employees and independent contractors.

Letter to Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin
On Monday, ASTA sent a letter to the Treasury Secretary offering our assistance in implementation of the CARES Act. Under Section 4003(b)(1) of the CARES Act, the Department is authorized to make up to $25 billion in loans and loan guarantees for passenger air carriers; eligible businesses performing inspection, repair, replace, or overhaul services; and ticket agents. That statute defines a ticket agent is: “[a] person that as a principal or agent sells, offers for sale, negotiates for, or holds itself out as selling, providing, or arranging for air transportation.”

While ASTA expects the majority of its membership to avail themselves of other relief options in the CARES Act over the next few weeks in particular—given the scale of the disruption to our part of the travel industry we believe there will be intense agency interest in loans and loan guarantees. In the letter, ASTA offered to put its market analysis and research assets, and general industry expertise at the disposal of the Department as they work through expected implementation challenges in the weeks and months ahead. 

Advocating for Advisors with Airlines
ASTA believes that recognizing the value travel advisors play in the booking process and the trust placed 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. In that spirit, Zane Kerby sent a message to the industry on March 23 on airline refunds, exchanges, commissions and more. ASTA believes that airlines should be compelled at this time to clarify ticket refund and exchange procedures for all travelers. For those who have booked through a travel advisor, carriers must provide greater specificity to 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. ASTA also asked that all tickets are made fully refundable and not merely credited for future travel. You can see the full list of requests here. ASTA believes that more updates will be available to our members soon.

For more information, visit asta.org. While you’re busy communicating with your clients,“Don’t Forget to Take a little #MeTime” too. And, for inspiration on what other advisors are using this slower time, don’t miss “11 Tips from Travel Advisors During this ‘Down Time.’”