Professional travel advisors do a lot more than booking itineraries – they actually take on the important additional responsibility of advocating with lawmakers on behalf of travel clients.
The American Society of Travel Advisors Legislative Day was Feb. 4, and society delegates met with legislative representatives to request changes in current laws or the creation of new laws for the benefit of U.S. travelers and travel agencies. Accent on Travel owner Annette Nero Stellhorn was asked to represent Delaware’s official travel advisors and meet with seven legislative offices including those of Delaware Sens. Chris Coons and Tom Carper, and Rep. Lisa Blunt Rochester.
“Spending the day walking the hill actually begins the night prior when we meet with a legal team, lobby specialists and industry specialists to gain a depth of knowledge on the issues. That is followed by a long day starting with an early a.m. initiative recap and then a full day running from appointment to appointment with the same requests for support at each legislative office. When the day was done, we can only hope stepping away from our own businesses to support this process has an impact,” said Stellhorn.
Stellhorn’s discussions in the nation’s capital focused on implementation of the Real ID Act, which will take place Thursday, Oct. 1. If nothing is changed, expectations are that about 500,000 travelers will be turned away weekly from U.S. airport security locations because of insufficient legal documentation for domestic travel. Stellhorn said, “When our representatives heard the fallout that is likely to occur unless something is done quickly, a meaningful bipartisan conversation ensued, including the request for any suggestions we might have prepared.”
Stellhorn said she is thrilled that Congress acted quickly, actually within days of her and her professional colleagues’ visit: “Each office was visited by at least one official travel agency representative from their home state along with a travel industry partner such as a cruise line, tour company or airline executive, all focused on helping the traveling public be prepared with their approved identification well before Oct. 1, 2020.”
Two congresswomen have just introduced the Trusted Traveler Real ID Relief Act of 2020 (H.R. 5827) to the House of Representatives. The resolution includes all the suggestions travel professionals offered, and Stellhorn is confident this bipartisan act will pass quickly. The Relief Act will allow some Transportation Security Administration clearances to be added to the accepted documents not on the original Real ID legislation passed in 2005.
The act would also task TSA to actively work on notifying the public of the PreCheck exemption and all pending Real ID requirements, and require TSA to develop and implement alternative secure screening procedures for people who arrive at an airport security checkpoint after the deadline. The act would also give state motor vehicle agencies time to establish new procedures so individuals can submit their documents and facial images electronically.
Many travelers already have acceptable forms of ID with the most common being a U.S. passport, but the majority of the traveling public do not.
As noted on the Transportation Security Administration website, www.tsa.gov, beginning Thursday, Oct. 1, every air traveler 18 years of age and older will need a Real ID-compliant driver’s license, state-issued enhanced driver’s license or another acceptable form of ID to fly within the United States. A Real ID-compliant driver’s license replaces the current driver’s license and is issued by the state. Driver licenses without the star imprinted in the right corner of a U.S. driver’s license will no longer be an acceptable form of ID to board a plane in the U.S. after Oct. 1.
Stellhorn suggests travelers who plan to take flights after Oct. 1 should visit their state’s DMV website to review and gather all the necessary documentation, and start the license updating process as soon as possible. For more information on Delaware requirements, go to www.dmv.de.gov/dmvdocguide.