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Case By 16 Travel Agencies Specializing In Travel To Cuba

ASTA files brief against state of Florida statute restricting trave

eTN  Sep 13, 2008

ALEXANDRIA, VA - On Wednesday, in response to several new amendments to Florida’s Seller of Travel law, ASTA filed an amicus curiae (friend of the court) brief in ABC Charters v. Bronson, a case brought against the state of Florida by 16 travel agencies specializing in travel to Cuba. The law, which went into effect on July 1 but remains blocked under a temporary restraining order, significantly increases registration fees, security bonds and potential fines for firms selling trips directly to any nation that has been designated by the State Department as state sponsor of terrorism, namely, Iran, Syria, Cuba, Sudan and North Korea.

ASTA, like the plaintiffs, believes the new law violates multiple provisions of the Constitution, including freedom to travel, the right of the federal government to conduct foreign relations and regulate commerce free of state interference.

In its brief, ASTA wrote:

No greater interest has motivated ASTA to involve itself in this case than to preserve and defend the liberty we hold dearest – the right to travel. It is impossible to separate the economic loss from lost business opportunities and the loss of choice in individual consumption, which is the end product of production, from the intrusion upon personal liberty interests occasioned by travel restrictions. Perhaps, among all human rights, the most precious in and of itself, is the right to go somewhere else, which is why ASTA refers to travel as the “perfect freedom.” …

The Travel Act imposes severe restrictions, which are designed to restrain Floridians and other persons in the United States from moving freely from Florida to the destinations regulated under the Act. For some individuals the expected heightened cost of travel to the designated countries will make such trips seem less attractive. For others it will serve as an insurmountable financial impediment. Either way, the Travel Act deprives citizens of the right to travel without due process of law under the Fifth Amendment.

Under the new law, US travel agents who sell a trip originating in Florida to a Florida consumer to any of these five countries will need to pay an annual registration fee of between $1,000 and $2,500 and post a performance bond, ranging from $100,000 and $250,000. Additionally, violators will now face a $10,000 fine for not disclosing travel activities to a designated nation and would face a third-degree felony conviction.

ASTA wrote:

The Travel Act - which includes prohibitively expensive registration and bonding requirements, exorbitant fines and a felony conviction for those who fail to comply with the law - attempts to indirectly impose economic sanctions on foreign governments. The effect of the Travel Act is that it will put travel agencies that sell to designated countries out of business and raise agency costs of doing business so that the price clients would have to pay to purchase airline tickets to designated countries would become so excessive that travel to those destinations would sharply diminish. The net impact of the Travel Act is to reduce or eliminate trade and commerce with designated countries. It performs the same function as a direct economic sanction. … [I]t is not a felonious act in the state of Florida to neglect to pay a parking meter. It is also not a felony to operate an automobile without a license or without registering the automobile. Yet, under the Travel Act, it is a felony of the third degree for a travel agency to fail to properly register with the correct certification prior to selling a trip to Cuba, Iran, Syria, North Korea or Sudan.

Agents must submit an annual certification to Florida in which they must fully disclose all travel-related details pertaining to nations on the terrorism list, including all suppliers and proprietary contacts. For years, travel agencies had been generally exempt from Florida's registration requirements provided they were accredited by the Airlines Reporting Corp. for three consecutive years prior. Under the new amendments to Florida's Seller of Travel Law, agents lose that exemption if they sell travel to at least one of the countries on the State Department's list. A single transaction involving travel to Iran, Syria, Cuba, Sudan or North Korea can constitute a violation.
A hearing to determine whether a preliminary injunction should be granted has been scheduled for Sept. 25 in Miami. View the ABC Charters Amicus Brief submitted by ASTA to the Court.

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.

ASTA files brief against state of Florida statute restricting trave

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