Here’s What ASTA’s Legislative Day is Like (and Why You Should Go)
I’ve been hearing about ASTA’s Legislative Day for quite awhile and I was thrilled when I finally had a chance to attend! And I swear to you, it's not just because of the photo ops (though those certainly helped) . . . and I would like to take this opportunity to announce my candidacy in 2020! (jk. sorry to disappoint).
Anyway, whether you know anything about the inner workings of government or not, you really should go at least once in your career to experience it. So let me walk you through what exactly ASTA Legislative Day is, as well as what you can expect.
What is ASTA’s Legislative Day
I don’t want to say I had no idea what Legislative Day was about but, um, let’s just say I wasn’t well-versed in what Legislative Day entailed. I’d heard the name, assumed it had to do with different legislation affecting the travel industry (good deduction, Steph!), but that was about it.
If we’re looking at Legislative Day from a 30,000 foot view, ASTA’s goal is to get travel advisors and their allies (suppliers, consortia, etc.) to D.C. to bring a few key points to legislators’—senators and representatives—attention.
As easy as it is to be frustrated with politics and feel like your voice doesn’t matter, the reality is that it’s impossible for senators/representatives to know every industry in-depth. There are just toooooo many industries and business types! Your voice does matter . . . and is sorely needed!
Let me explain. There’s this cute lil’ project known as NAICS, otherwise known as the North American Industry Classification System. It’s cute because their job is to classify every single industry out there into a certain sector/sub-sector/sub-sub-sector so that businesses fit into a nice box for data purposes. I mean, isn’t that adorable that they’re trying to do that? So, so cute.
Anyhow, as you can see below, listing the NAICS industry sectors takes up 51 pages! This is why even the best senators/representatives need business owners to speak up if legislation will/does hurt them. There's no possible way for legislators to have an expert in their back pocket for every single industry.
Now we know why our voices as business people are important, let’s talk about how we get the most bang for our buck. Showing our pretty faces, that’s how!
On Legislative Day, ASTA organizes travel advisors to rally and hit up their senators/reps in person (key word). Imagine 160 travel advisors, storming Capitol Hill, with each state’s delegation — a group of advisors and their allies — addressing the same issues. Legislative Day is advocacy on steroids!
And that’s what ASTA’s Legislative Day is about. But what about how it works?
What to Expect
The first thing to know is that ASTA — namely Eben Peck and Genevieve Strand, the ASTA advocacy team — make this super easy for you. If, like me, you show up and don’t really know what you’re doing, don’t worry. They’ve got it all taken care of for you. Here's how:
The day before you meet with your state’s senators/representatives, ASTA has a training that gets you up to speed on the issues, prepares you for what to expect and gives you the secret sauce for how to have a successful meeting. You can literally arrive not knowing a thing (ahem, not that I would know about that) and be ready to conquer by the end of the day.
Pre-game (the day before your meetings with legislators) is when you finally get to meet the people you are going to storm Capitol Hill with. Here’s my good looking crew, the Minnesota / Michigan delegation:
If you’re a political junkie, mentally prepare yourself. Chances are, you won’t be meeting with the actual senator or representative — boo! Instead, you’ll probably meet with one of their aides. (But don't be fooled. Some aides have a lot of sway, okay?!)
Another thing you should expect? Meetings in the hall are commonplace, not a slight. Weird, right? It is … until you realize it’s very possible they converted some of the building’s broom closets into offices. Then it makes complete sense. 😊 Much better air circulation in the halls.
ASTA also does a great job during the pre-game of going over the topics you’ll be addressing the following day with your legislators. This year’s topics:
- the IC classification problem that has been plaguing our industry,
- the diversion of TSA fees to the budget deficit and
- drumming up awareness that travel advisors still exist and the numbers are growing.
It’s game day! You can plan for an early start to the day with buses departing for the Capitol Hill Base Camp at 7:15AM. You grab some brekky, meet your team at your table to do any last minute strategizing and take a look at the Folder of Wonder (my term, not ASTA's, obviously).
What’s inside this mysterious folded gem? Everything! Here’s a sneak peek inside the Folder of Wonder (ooooooooo, ahhhhhhh….):
Throughout the day you’ll have meetings with different legislators where you’ll cover the problems ASTA trained you on and state your ‘ask’. That is to say, you discuss what the problem is and what you want your legislator to do. Your 'ask' will sound something like this:
TSA Fees are being diverted to the budget deficit to the tune of $1.36 billion in funding being taken out of the aviation security system in 2019. We’d like the senator to cosponsor or otherwise support enactment of S. 472.
Don’t worry, you don't have to memorize anything. As I mentioned earlier, ASTA has done all the heavy lifting for you: organizing meetings; making sure you have food/transportation; printing out the talking points and supporting information; gathering the data; prepping you; and of course giving you the magical Folder of Wonder.
Will We See You at the Next ASTA Legislative Day?
Now that you know what's involved with ASTA Legislative Day, how about it? Will we see you at the next one? It's a great way to see how the government works, fantastic networking, and of course, benefits all of us in the industry. I'd love to see you at next year's Legislative Day!
ASTA Legislative Day 2020 l February 3-6, 2020 l Washington, DC
And when Legislative Day wraps up, if you're anything like me, you just might feel like you conquered Capitol Hill. ;)