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Travel Outlook for 2015 from ASTA

by Lux Joseph 11. January 2015

Our in-house travel department has shared with CME some outlook on travel this upcoming year, 2015. CME works closely with our travel department to ensure we are providing on the best travel arrangements for our clients. Our travel department has extensive knowledge on the medical assistance industry as well as travel. As our travel department is partnered with the American Society of Travel Agents (ASTA), he has advised us that ASATA has set an aggressive agenda for 2015 in its mission to be the lead advocate for travel agents who, in turn, are the strongest allies of the traveling public. The agenda includes action at both the federal and state levels, continues work begun in 2014 and adds new initiatives that support free and unfettered world travel.


“ASTA is the only industry organization with the know-how, the staff, the resources and the alliances to effectively defend the interests of travel agencies across the country,” said Sky Cap Corp President and CEO Joseph McNamara. “This was reflected in our work in 2014, a banner year for ASTA advocacy that saw us leverage our unique strength as an association before the U.S. Congress, the White House, federal agencies and all 50 state legislatures in the fight to keep the retail distribution channel strong and thriving for years to come.”

The Association’s advocacy priorities for 2015 include:

  • Ensuring Transparency in the Cost of Air Travel: ASTA will work to ensure that the U.S. Department of Transportation’s (DOT) landmark rulemaking on airline ancillary fees provides agents and consumers full access to airline ancillary fees and the ability to purchase the complete air transportation product; and will fight airline efforts to insert the so-called Transparent Airfares Act overturning DOT’s full-fare advertising rule into “must-pass” Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) reauthorization legislation in Congress.
  • Reducing the Regulatory Burden on Travel Agents: ASTA will fight against proposals in Congress and at the DOT that will require agents to make new and unwarranted disclosures to consumers during airline ticketing, such as one in a 2012 law requiring notification that the aircraft their client is flying on may be sprayed with insecticides.
  • Fighting Oppressive Taxation: ASTA will continue to oppose any state proposals to apply new taxes to agency fees and other income, including proposals to subject service industries such as travel agencies to state sales taxes, and to apply state and local hotel taxes to hotel “intermediaries” such as agents. At the same time, ASTA will work with its car rental partners to enact federal legislation to preempt state and local governments from imposing discriminatory taxes on car rentals.
  • Cuba Travel: Building on the recent agreement reached between the U.S. and Cuban governments to ease long-standing restrictions on trade and other interactions between the two countries – including those preventing American citizens from travelling to Cuba – ASTA will work with President Obama, Administration officials and the U.S. Congress to ensure that Americans are free to travel to Cuba without constraint from their own government. While working toward a full repeal of the travel ban, the Association will petition the Administration to expressly permit any travel agent to book travel for Americans lawfully entitled to travel to Cuba under the new regulations called for by the President in late 2014.
  • Travel Facilitation: ASTA will support the expansion of “Trusted Traveler” aviation security programs, such as TSA’s PreCheck and CBP’s Global Entry, and will ensure that agents have a voice and active role in their implementation. On the international side, the Association will support the Jobs Originated through Launching Travel (JOLT) Act, which will streamline visa processes for “inbound” travelers and help the U.S. recapture its historic share of worldwide overseas travel. 

The highlights of ASTA’s advocacy work during 2014 include:

  • White House Meeting: In March, ASTA secured a first-ever meeting in the White House to brief President Obama’s advisors face to face on the value of the travel agency channel to both consumers and to the small business-driven national economy.
  • IATA NDC: The association worked collaboratively with the International Air Transport Association (IATA), the Department of Transportation (DOT) and other aviation stakeholders to ensure that the DOT’s August approval of IATA’s New Distribution Capability (NDC) initiative was subject to a number of consumer protection conditions designed to protect competition and consumer privacy. Going forward, ASTA will work to ensure that agents’ views and business needs are taken into account as NDC is further developed – as a member of several IATA advisory committees as well as a recently-announced initiative to develop understanding of the impact (e.g., from a business, technology and commercial perspective) of NDC for travel agents.
  • Hazmat Notification Regulations: ASTA was successful in its efforts to rework a burdensome DOT regulation that would have required agents to secure their client’s acknowledgement of complex federal hazardous materials restrictions before issuing an airline ticket. Instead, starting in 2016 the disclosure requirement can now be fulfilled any time prior to check-in, such as by automatically providing it on the passenger’s itinerary. This is a big win for agents, as the original requirements would have added to existing passenger notification requirements travel agents have to comply with regarding code-share flights, insecticide spraying and others issues. These requirements would have saddled the industry with more than $58 million in initial training and programming costs and $26 million per year in ongoing compliance costs. 
  • Travel Insurance Reform: Working with a coalition led by the U.S. Travel Insurance Association, ASTA and its members have helped reform costly and complex travel insurance licensing in 31 states. Members’ grassroots efforts – including committee testimony in Colorado (Rich Sattizahn), Hawaii (Rachel Shimamoto, Wendy Goodenow) and Maryland (Larry Swerdlin, Jay Ellenby) – were instrumental in moving this initiative forward. Once in place nationwide, these standards will save agencies thousands of dollars in annual licensing costs while reducing the risk of state fines for non-compliance. Counting only the 31 states that have adopted the standards, ASTA estimates the collective savings for the travel agency industry to be $7.5 million per year thanks to this reform.

As one can see, having a travel department that has a strong relationship established with the travel industry demonstrates progressive growth and outlook for CME’s operations. CME’s business relies heavily on the travel industry and people traveling around the world. If there is a declining trend in travelers that is something that CME wants to know because it can impact our business significantly. While we do not want people to become ill or injured, we are proactive in demonstrating the importance of travel insurance to travelers around the world.

Global Entry Program Interview Completed

by Lux Joseph 30. August 2013

 

 Are you nervous? Are you concerned? Do you wonder about what will take place? A couple weeks ago I took the opportunity to tell you about the beginning stages of the Global Entry Program.  This past Monday I had my interview with a U.S. Customs and Border Protection officer at the Miami International Airport Enrollment Center. This is the last and final stage of becoming accepted into the program. Even if you have nothing to be afraid of and have nothing against your record, having an interview with a government official can still be nerve wracking. However, as someone who completed the interview Monday I can tell you first hand that the process is very straight forward and not stressful at all.

Our appointments were on Monday evening at the Miami International Airport Enrollment Center. There are enrollment centers located throughout the United States and Canada. You can find the one closest to you by visiting the website at: http://www.globalentry.gov/locations.html. If you are located in South Florida, we are fortunate to have two enrollment centers: Fort Lauderdale and Miami. Fort Lauderdale is definitely closer to us, but the availability of appointments is limited. Once you have completed your application and paid your application fee you will receive a notice about being conditionally approved. At that time you receive access to set up an appointment. Our appointments were at 9:20pm and 9:40pm.

Miami International Airport is not a simple airport to navigate if it is your first time visiting so arriving early will ensure plenty of time to find parking and locate the Global Entry office. It is best that you park in the Flamingo Parking Garage or South Parking (uncovered) closest to Terminal J. As you approach the Miami Airport, Terminal J is the terminal located on the left all the way at the end of the strip in the south terminal. Upon entering the terminal, you will want to follow the signs for Lufthansa Check In. The Global Entry Office is directly across from their check-in counter.

I would definitely recommend selecting an appointment late in the evening. The airport was practically empty. Walking through the international terminal the only airlines still operating check in was LAN due to their late flights that depart to South America. The rest of the terminal was empty except for cleaning crew mopping the floors. When we arrived at the enrollment center no one was in line and one individual arrived immediately after us. All three of us were taken into a general room in which there were three stations each assigned with a U.S. Customs and Border Protection officer. The interview process was informal and informative. Some of the questions that were asked include:

·         Can you verify your place of current employment?

·         You were recently out of the country visiting the following countries; can you please inform us the purpose of each trip?

·         Can you verify your address of your previous employer?

·         Why are you applying for Global Entry?

The CBP officer scanned our biometric data (finger prints) and a photo was taken. Once that was completed, the CBP officer discussed the program at length and in detail. Immediately following that we were advised that we had been approved. “Wait, that’s all?” That is the exact thought I had when I walked out of the enrollment center at 9:17pm, three minutes prior to the time our interview was scheduled to start.

We were advised that we would be receiving our card within the next couple of weeks and will receive an email within 24 hours confirming approval. The Global Entry program is valid for five years and definitely worth the $100 application fee and the application process. Do not let the fear of government officials or an interview stop you from completing this. The process is not intimidating or intended to be complicated. In the future it will provide ease of travel for travelers internationally. Upon receiving your Global Entry card the CBP officer encouraged us to make sure our Trusted Traveler membership number is attached to any of our airline profiles. This will make you eligible for TSA PreCheck. If you do not have a profile with the airline, ask them to add your number to your reservation. The first time I utilize the kiosk upon arriving into the USA from an international destination I will be sure to inform you how it goes.

CME will be encouraging all of our nurses and physicians to become enrolled in the program. With our medical team traveling often, it would be extremely beneficial to have this in place especially when they are returning into the USA with patients. The extended lines in immigration can be stressful on the everyday traveler and we want to ensure only the smoothest travels for our medical team and their patients.

  

 


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