Saturday, January 17, 2009

ASTA on Clinton's Testimony

Supporting Americans' Freedom To Travel

ASTA praises Sen. Clinton for signaling Cuba policy change

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By eTN Staff Writer | Jan 17, 2009

ALEXANDRIA, VA - ASTA is praising President-elect Barack Obama' nominee to be Secretary of State, Senator Hillary Rodham Clinton (D-NY), for signaling a change in American foreign policy with respect to Cuba. At her confirmation hearing before the Senate Foreign Relations Committee this week, Senator Clinton indicated that the new administration is committed to lifting current restrictions on Americans' freedom to visit family members in Cuba and to send remittances to relatives in that country.

Calling Cuban-Americans "the best ambassadors for democracy, freedom, and a free market economy," Clinton went on to tell members of the committee that she hopes the Castro regime will see that the new administration represents an "opportunity to change some of their typical approaches."

Clinton's nomination cleared the Foreign Relations Committee Thursday in a 16-1 vote.

"Senator Clinton's statement is an encouraging signal that the incoming administration is open to new ideas with respect to US-Cuba policy," said ASTA president and chair Chris Russo. "While easing restrictions on family travel and remittances is a good first step, Americans would best be served by a complete elimination of current restrictions on travel to Cuba," Russo added.

In a letter dated December 4, 2008, ASTA and a host of organizations from across the business community formally requested that the incoming Obama administration make immediate changes to US policy toward Cuba, including a removal of the travel ban.

ASTA is committed to working with its allies from within and outside the travel and tourism industry to make the case for these policy changes, and it looks forward to working with Senator Clinton and fellow members of the incoming Obama administration and with the 111th Congress to ensure that Americans are free to travel the world without restriction from their own government.

For additional information on this issue, please visit or contact Colin Tooze, vice president of government affairs, at .

The mission of the American Society of Travel Agents (ASTA) is to facilitate the business of selling travel through effective representation, shared knowledge, and the enhancement of professionalism. ASTA seeks a retail travel marketplace that is profitable and growing and a rewarding field in which to work, invest, and do business.

Friday, January 16, 2009

Tourism Industry Summit calls for end of travel bans

How to Fuel the U.S. Economy through Travel & Tourism

Seven Recommendations from the Economic Summit of Travel & Tourism Sector Leaders

excerpt Full text of recommendations and list of signers can be read here

On Dec. 16, 2008, 37 U.S. travel and tour entities gathered in Washington, D.C., for an historic high level meeting [organized by the National Tour Association].

Traditionally segmented by specific interests, these voices united for the first time to identify immediate top priorities for President-elect Obama’s Transition Team that will help fuel America’s economy.

As a collective voice, they speak for more than 82,000 businesses and members and stand ready to assist the new Administration in leveraging the travel and tourism sector as a stimulus for the national economy and global competitiveness.

[Although Cuba is not mentioned specifically, it is the only country currently affected by a travel ban.]

7. Re-Examination of Travel Bans

On rare occasions, the United States government has restricted or banned travel to certain countries as a punitive economic measure or to advance other foreign policy goals. It is recommended that the incoming Administration re-examine this practice and to eliminate any such bans currently in effect.

The use of travel freedom as an instrument of foreign policy manipulation ultimately harms the very citizens it purports to protect.
Were the American people allowed the opportunity to travel to countries whose leaders are publicly opposed to American interests, they could serve as ambassadors of freedom and American values to those nations. The travel and tourism industries, those who do business with them, and the broader economy will see both immediate and long-term economic gains as the easing of travel bans leads to increased demand for new passenger routes, tour operations, and travel agent services. It is recommended that the incoming Administration:

• Recognize that freedom to travel is an important instrument of economic development and mutual understanding.

• Adopt as policy that the citizens of the United States should be free to travel the globe without
artificial restrictions placed on them by their own government.

• Promote the benefits of unfettered travel for U.S. citizens as a matter of national policy.