Ann Chamberlin, the President of the National Association of Career Travel Agents (NACTA), is responsible for the overall operations of NACTA. This includes member and supplier sales, revenue management, meetings and events, and membership service. Ann leads the overall vision for NACTA and strengthens the company through strategic partnerships and membership growth to ensure NACTA remains the top membership choice for travel consultants.
Ann built her career over 12 years at Holland America Line in various sales capacities including Director of Premium Preferred/National Accounts before accepting the position of Vice President of North America Member Sales and Service for Virtuoso, where she worked for nine years including building their first ever field sales team.
Joining NACTA in January 2012 as Vice President, she was promoted to President of the association in the fall of 2013. During her tenure, she and her team raised the membership criteria qualifications, rebranded the association, expanded the supplier portfolio, and strengthened the chapter system through a regionalized structure. Reporting directly to the President and CEO of ASTA, she works collaboratively with the American Society of Travel Agents to ensure the success of both associations.
Travel Research Online (TRO): What motivated you to pursue a career in the travel industry?
Ann Chamberlin (AC): Growing up in Seattle, Holland America was our hometown cruise line, and the thought of starting a career in travel by working for the cruise lines was very exciting. After graduating from the University of Washington, I applied to work in their group reservations department, was hired, and made my way up the career ladder where I stayed for 12 years during the period of 1988-2000. The transformation of the company when Carnival acquired Holland America Line in 1989 was particularly notable. Most memorable was rolling out all the new ships with travel agent events, introducing 10 new ships during my tenure there.
TRO: Tell us about your day-to-day role at NACTA.
AC: Working collaboratively with the NACTA staff is a highlight for me. Since we are a small staff team of four with varying travel industry experience we are able to introduce new concepts, debate, and implement the best ideas that benefit the travel consultant and supplier members. Frequent interaction with the NACTA Chapter Directors and Regional Director Leadership team helps us shape these new concepts. Helping ensure that our Chapters’ needs are met and our member travel consultants are successful keeps NACTA flourishing.
TRO: NACTA’s goal since its inception in 1986 has always been for the education and training of the travel agent community. Tell us about some of the educational programs NACTA has on offer.
AC: We have just come off of a highly successful ASTA Maui Showcase this month, and the balance of educational content (indoors) and island excursions (outdoors) for learning purposes is a good match for the leisure sellers of travel. Travel Consultants, who are good at what they do, have first-hand knowledge and current travel experiences. They have to in order to consultant, suggest, and plan the best travel options for their clients. NACTA travel consultants are specialists and craftsmen in how they plan their clients’ vacation experiences. To help them with this, we offer a variety of familiarization tours that are organized in concert with our suppliers, including luxury trips to Bali and China, active adventure FAMs to Alaska, cultural and gastronomic experiences in southern Europe, and cruises on new ships so members stay current and experienced. NACTA suppliers get that NACTA travel consultants have the group business, and are eager to host our members to their destinations and on their products.
TRO: NACTA partners with certain suppliers and host agencies. What criteria do you use to determine if a potential partner is a good fit for the association?
AC: Many NACTA suppliers are vetted through our Chapters and we conduct an internal interview process which includes questions on how their company supports independent agents. If the Chapter Directors endorse a supplier and have had good experiences selling a particular supplier, chances are they will be invited to join NACTA. Host agencies look to join NACTA for talent primarily, as nearly 42% of our membership is fully independent and not working directly with a host agency. They also support NACTA programs because many of their hosted agents are NACTA members, and as an agent grows their sales, the Host agency benefits from their production credit. NACTA provides guidelines for considering a host agency on our website, including what to look for before deciding to join a Host agency. We follow these same guidelines when inviting a Host agency to join NACTA along with the following minimum criteria:
- You must have been in business as a host agency for at least one full year.
- You must carry at least one million dollars in Errors and Omissions Insurance or require all independents to maintain their own current policies.
- Your average sales volume per independent agent must exceed $10,000.00.
- There are no unresolved complaints against your agency.
- You support the development of the professional independent travel agent channel.
- You are registered to operate as a host agency with all local, state, and federal governments as required.
- You do not have a “recruitment program” whereby consumers recruit other consumers into the network as a higher priority over supporting the career of the individual travel seller.
- You do not offer a “Travel Agent Photo ID Card” for the purpose of consumers to obtain travel professional benefits.
TRO: Why should either new or veteran travel agents consider joining NACTA?
AC: NACTA members have been in the travel business an average of 16+ years. Veteran travel consultants will find comradery with other like-minded travel professionals, and newcomers to the industry will learn from these more seasoned sellers of travel. Newcomers will be inspired by their stories, coached on the pitfalls in planning travel, and will learn how to advance their career in travel. The professional networking platform NACTA provides allows face-to-face meetings and exchanges unmatched anywhere else for the independent travel agent.
TRO: What type of networking and educational events does NACTA provide for its members?
AC: Networking and educational events come in many different forms, including Webinars, monthly newsletters, inspiring Agent Life magazine articles, the annual conference, destination showcases, and locally at chapter meetings and events. We have designated May as National Travel Consultant month. This is to recognize and appreciate the work, planning, and attention to detail that travel consultants do every day on behalf of their clients.
TRO: Where can an agent find more information on their local state or regional chapter of NACTA?
AC: Travel consultants interested in NACTA should join online at www.nacta.com/membership, then find their local Chapter within the website chapter directory listing at www.nacta.com/chapters. Chapter meetings and events are also listed on the NACTA website: http://nacta.com/events/annual-calendar-of-events.
TRO: What is your favorite travel destination to date?
AC: That is a difficult question, as every place I have travelled to has allowed me a unique experience, including an appreciation for the people, culture, cuisine, and history. When a potential client asks this question of a travel consultant the response is: “It’s not about what I like, it’s about me getting to know you and what will make you happy with your travel experience.” In the same regard, my desire is to offer the NACTA travel consultant a variety of travel options throughout the year that support their specialties in order to advance their knowledge and grow their careers. That being said, Alaska, Hawaii, and Cambodia have been rewarding experiences for me, personally and professionally.
TRO: What is on the horizon in 2016 for NACTA?
AC: We are expecting record turnout at our 2016 conference, and NACTA is also celebrating our 30 year anniversary this year. The NACTA annual conference in Fort Lauderdale on land (Westin FLL) and sea (Celebrity Infinity) will be where we celebrate our history and toast to our future. The conference is November 3-9, 2016. Registration for our 2017 Alaska conference will open this summer for September 13-16, 2017. We’ve already started taking names on a wait list until the registration site officially opens: www.Nacta.com/Alaska.
For more information on Ann and NACTA, visit them online at www.nacta.com.