When our daily lives depend on MP3’s, iPhones, Blackberries and high-speed everything with thousands of channels, it’s hard to remember how things used to be even as recently as 10 years ago.
Remember TWA, SABENA and Swiss Air? There were days in our not-so-distant past where there were no first and second bag charges, no fuel surcharges, no fee for simply talking to a person. These were the days before instant messaging and blogging. Today our customers have changed, our suppliers have changed and the ways and means to make a living selling travel also have changed.
But some attitudes never change. Old impressions have a life of their own.
Ten years ago there were more than 35,000 brick & motor Airlines Reporting Corp. (ARC) agencies. During this same time, membership in ASTA was restricted to agency owners and we were in effect the American Society of Travel Agencies not Agents.
With dwindling commissions, waning supplier support and rapidly evolving business models, ASTA knew it had to change. Not surprisingly, early recommendations for change were met with strong internal resistance, which only slowed the inevitable. Even so, ASTA’s Board charted a new course which would restore the Society to a position where it would and could meet the needs of its membership. To achieve this would require an almost complete overhaul of focus, mission, membership, events and governance.
Let’s see what happened.
Membership is now open to all legitimate sellers of travel, regardless of business model. ASTA purchased NACTA in 2000 and the new alliance focuses on the career needs of travel professionals. ASTA now concentrates on helping solve or ameliorate the business challenges faced by travel retailers trying to make money selling travel.
Our events have changed immensely. THETRADESHOW is now produced by ASTA on behalf of more than 16 industry show partners, who provide content, functions, speakers, education and support. THETRADESHOW is open to all and not even branded as an ASTA event to be more welcoming; it’s truly a SHOW for everyone.
ASTA’s International Destination Expo (IDE) is the finest example of on-location education around. Travel agents need to travel—they must continue to seek ways to add value to a customer’s trip and what better way than by investing in themselves? Each year IDE brings together a number of agents to a different part of the world for destination immersion. The suppliers, the classes and the food featured are all exclusive to that region.
Today though, ASTA, agent support is unsurpassed. No other organization in this industry does for agents what ASTA does. Our grassroots presence in every state, coupled with a strong, experienced and focused national presence in Washington, gives agents the ability to finally fight and win some important battles. In the past 12 to 18 months, ASTA has fought successfully for agents in Michigan, Texas, Massachusetts, California and Florida just to name a few states–when that gun goes off who you gonna call?
Nationally ASTA was successful in rolling back hundreds and thousands of dollars in ARC fee increases. Even so, when travel agents have to vote with their pocket books and join ASTA, the majority want others to support their ONLY national trade organization.
Why? Oh, they have issues about what ASTA did or failed to do 10 or more years ago. Well, I’ve got news, the world had changed, your customers have changed and your business has changed. ASTA has changed, too.
- It offers more benefits than two years ago, at a lower price point.
- It has unsurpassed resources 24/7 for the true retailer.
- It is your badge of belonging and supporting, not a cruise organization or a for-profit entity, but your trade association.
There are many people “in” the travel business, but if you are in business to sell travel, then you need ASTA, the only organization “Dedicated to the business of selling travel.”
William A. Maloney, CTC, a 30-year veteran of the travel industry, was named ASTA’s executive vice president and COO in March 1999. 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.