When I first entered the industry in 1996, I was told that I “needed” to join the American Society of Travel Agents (ASTA), the Cruise Lines International Association (CLIA), the International Airlines Travel Agents Network (IATAN), and the Airlines Reporting Corporation (ARC). Whew! Who knew you needed so many organizations to advocate on your behalf in order for you to succeed? But are these organizations really advocating for you? Are these organizations really working towards your success? Find out which are on your side, and which aren’t!
Face it, ARC and IATAN (which, like CLIA is an offshoot of a parent organization to deal with travel agents) are puppets of the airlines. Of course if you are not selling airline tickets, there is not a pressing need to affiliate with either of these other than the formerly-useful IATAN card which used to have a lot of serious clout with airlines and other suppliers. Unfortunately, some suppliers require an ARC or IATA number to do business.
CLIA might be on your side. But consider that they are the international association for cruise lines—not agents. Granted, they do provide a great service to agents. Their training is top notch. They offer an almost industry-wide identification number to identify your agency as a bona fide professional. They also offer an agent ID with marginal benefits. However, their customer is indeed the cruise lines who are paying the big bucks to have CLIA advocate for them.
Cruise Lines International Association is the world’s largest cruise association and is dedicated to the promotion and growth of the cruise industry. CLIA is composed of 26 of the major cruise lines serving North America and is an organization that operates pursuant to an agreement filed with the Federal Maritime Commission
The travel agency aspect is strictly a “marketing organization” of CLIA.
ASTA (along with their little step-sister, the National Association of Career Travel Agents (NACTA)) is probably the largest advocate of the travel agent. Combined, the two organizations have the largest membership and address the home-based, retail, and online agencies. However, many have cried for years how ineffective they were. They fought a battle against commission cuts and lost—someone had to win. However, they were positioned by agencies as being ineffective because they lost—and membership declined. There is new blood in ASTA and Jason Coleman, the young, newly elected Director, has plans to shake things up and try to position the organization in a better position to meet the demands of today’s agent.
There are plenty of other smaller organizations that will advocate on behalf of the agency, however their influence tends to be smaller and more regional in nature. The Outside Sales Support Network (OSSN) sponsors several very good trade shows, has facilitated an industry identification card, and offers some great training and tools for their agencies. The Association of Retail Travel Agents (ARTA) used to be an effective organization, but seems to have gone on hiatus. I had a difficult time finding them online and their most recent press release was in 2011. Maybe someone can tell me what they are up to lately?
You! Face it, any of the organizations above have the ability to advocate on your behalf. Some even do a decent job of it. But, in the end, CLIA, ASTA, ARTA, NACTA, OSSN, ARC, IATAN or any other acronym organization does not care if you exist or not! You are in the most unique position to determine the needs of your agency. You are the one who will determine if a proposed law (local or national) will impact your business. You are the one who needs to go beat the drum and find business to pay your bills and support your employees and your family. The organizations are only tools that may help you achieve your goals.
Are you a member of or have an accreditation with any of them? How is that working out for you? Have you seen a shift in their effectiveness? How can they do better? Let me know!