ALEXANDRIA, VA – ASTA claims victory in its efforts to block recent amendments to the Florida Sellers of Travel Law, as a federal judge in Miami today ruled that the new restrictions are likely to be declared unconstitutional and barred the state from enforcing them.
“This law would have impeded Florida agents’ ability to freely sell travel and could have placed an unprecedented financial and disciplinary burden on them as well,” said Chris Russo, ASTA president and CEO. “Because of the combined efforts of ASTA and the 16 travel agencies involved, the right to travel has been defended and acknowledged.”
In his order, US District Judge Alan S. Gold issued a preliminary injunction against the law, holding that it violates the Federal Constitution on several grounds including the federal mandate in Foreign Affairs, the Supremacy Clause, the Foreign Commerce Clause and the Interstate Commerce Clause.
Gold noted, “It is with significant concern that I note that the Travel Act Amendments – which include extraordinary expensive registration and bonding requirements, exorbitant fines and a felony conviction for those who fail to comply with the law – constitute little more than an attempt to impose economic sanctions on travel to designated foreign governments, particularly the Republic of Cuba. But the right and power to impose such sanctions, and to establish foreign policy, remains, under our Federal Constitution, solely within the exclusive domain of the Congress of the United States and the President, and not within the aegis of the State of Florida under the guise of consumer protection.”
ASTA assisted in the litigation by filing 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 remained blocked under a temporary restraining order, significantly increased 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.
Gold endorsed ASTA’s view that the expansive reach of this law could ultimately affect travel to countries other than Cuba, rejecting the claim that this law was based on a desire to protect consumers and that the Florida law would punish and interfere with business. ASTA, like the plaintiffs, believed the new law violated 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.
Florida agents would have been required to submit an annual certification to the state 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 would have lost that exemption had they sold travel to at least one of the countries on the State Department’s list. U.S. travel agents who sold a trip originating in Florida to a Florida consumer to any of the five countries listed would have been forced to pay an annual registration fee of between $1,000 and $2,500 and required to post a performance bond, ranging from $100,000 and $250,000. Violators would have faced a $10,000 fine for not disclosing travel activities to a designated nation and possibly faced a third-degree felony conviction.
For additional information on the case, please visit ASTA.org/ELibrary; for earlier releases pertaining to this case, please visit ASTA.org/News.
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.