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Ahead for advocacy

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posted December 7, 2018

The National Tour Association advocated for a number of different priorities during the 115th Congress: increasing funding for U.S. national parks, modernizing travel infrastructure, expanding aviation consumer protections, reauthorizing Brand USA and more.

National parks funding has recently had bipartisan support, which was encouraging to see in a Republican-controlled 115th Congress. The Restore Our Parks acts in the House and Senate, which were both introduced by Republican members and have accumulated 202 and 33 cosponsors respectively, are a positive indication of what could come during the next Congress. NTA will continue to advocate for legislators to unite on a bipartisan front to address the mounting maintenance backlog.

The new fee increases and Commercial Use Authorization permitting processes at national parks have proven to be burdensome for tour operators, in many cases forcing them to drop certain parks from their itineraries. NTA has been in constant engagement with the Department of Interior and the National Park Service on these issues and will work diligently to reduce the administrative and monetary burdens of these new fees and processes on tour operators throughout the 116th Congress.

During the 115th Congress, NTA advocated for robust funding streams for U.S. airports and for modernizing the country’s travel infrastructure. While the Federal Aviation Administration Reauthorization Act of 2018, which was signed into law on Oct. 5, contained robust airport improvement program funding, NTA hopes to see a comprehensive infrastructure package in the 116th Congress.

With infrastructure poised to take on more significance in the new Congress, NTA will be at the forefront of advocating for modernizing travel infrastructure across the country. While such improvements are generally a bipartisan issue, Democrats and Republicans have different views on how infrastructure investment should be funded.

With infrastructure poised to take on more significance in the new Congress, NTA will be at the forefront of advocating for modernizing travel infrastructure across the country.

President Trump’s views on new infrastructure investment seem to align more with Democrats than with Republicans in several key ways. For example, President Trump has indicated his openness to the Democratic approach of the majority of investment coming from direct government spending. He also has expressed open support for the idea of raising the federal gas tax to pay for infrastructure, an idea Republicans have resisted. NTA will continue to send a message to Congress that a robust infrastructure package that makes further improvements to airports and modernizes travel infrastructure across the country would be beneficial to the travel and tourism industry as a whole.

NTA’s advocacy for increased aviation consumer protections resulted in a big win. The FAA Reauthorization Act of 2018 contained an entire title of air service improvements across the board. These changes included directing the FAA to set minimum leg room, width and length requirements for passenger seats on commercial flights; prohibiting cell phone calls and the use of e-cigarettes on commercial flights; and requiring air carriers to develop a one-page document—accessible on their website—outlining numerous passenger rights, including compensation offered in the event of a flight delay, flight cancellation and lost bags.

Brand USA was authorized in 2014 by a Republican House and a Democratic Senate to extend through 2020. The Trump administration has taken a less-forward-leaning stance on Brand USA, leading to an active push to drum up support of the reauthorization of Brand USA as the 115th Congress comes to a close. 2019 will be a critical year in ensuring that the public-private partnership formed under the bipartisan Travel Promotion Act of 2009 is reauthorized once again. NTA applauds the industry and Congress for continuing the dialogue on Brand USA and will continue to engage Capitol Hill on its importance to the industry.

While many of NTA’s core issues gained traction this Congress, there is still much more work to be done at the start of the 116th Congress. NTA will continue to advocate on behalf of members, and the industry as a whole, in an effort to promote and ensure the continued vitality of travel and tourism.

Signal Group is a Washington, D.C., lobbying firm retained by NTA to advise members about travel-related issues and legislation.

Top photo by CC Flickr/Robert Easton: