A hospitality and tourism professional, Kelly Bigel joined ASTA in 2015, and has served in multiple positions during her tenure. Currently, Kelly is the Vice President of Business Development, where she recruits travel supplier company members, collaborates with them to create creative, customized outreach campaigns, and leads the Business Development team in executing successful trade shows and events.
In addition to her Business Development duties, Kelly was lead contributor on reorganizing the chapter structure, created and managed multiple Education Sessions and represents ASTA at various industry events. Before joining ASTA, Kelly held a series of Sales and Management roles at multiple Ritz-Carlton Hotels. In addition, Kelly worked as Strategic Account Manager of Escapes at LivingSocial, after coming from her position of Regional Sales Manager at Elizabeth Arden Red Door Spas.
Kelly received a BS in Hospitality from the Rosen School of Hospitality Management at University of Central Florida.
Kelly lives with her husband in Washington, DC, where she spends her free time volunteering, sailboat racing on the Potomac, practicing yoga, and of course, traveling!
Travel Research Online (TRO): Kelly, thanks for joining us today.
Kelly Bigel (KB): My pleasure, I’m delighted to speak with you!
TRO: You joined ASTA in 2015. What other roles did you play in the company before Vice President of Business Development?
KB: Initially starting out in Membership, I worked closely with ASTA Chapter Presidents and our local leaders throughout the world by guiding and growing our Chapter System. From there, I began working with our Supplier partners in Business Development to where I am now, leading our team.
TRO: You’ve just finished up at the ASTA Global Convention 2019. How was it this year?
KB: Incredible, the content was exceptional. The engagement and energy were the best I have ever experienced. Business was transacted on the Trade Show floor, relationships were strengthened, and advisors left with tools to help grow their business. ASTA Global Convention just keeps getting better each year!
TRO: Trade shows and events are the perfect places to build business relationships. What do you think is the key to creating an environment where this flourishes?
KB: There can never be enough networking. ASTA Global Convention 2019 provided multiple activations to meet and connect. Whether it was on the Trade Show Floor during our (first ever) Hosted Buyer Program or throughout the social receptions, attendees and Suppliers were coming together. In our industry especially, travel advisors do business with those they can trust and enjoy working with; and, the ASTA Global Convention provided our members with a platform to form new partnerships.
TRO: You moved from the hotel industry to advocate for travel advisors. Were there any major differences or similarities?
KB: While the client has changed for me, it’s just like working in a hotel. I have to work with my colleagues and partners to provide the best situation for my customers. The main difference is that I went from presenting my products directly to travel advisors to transitioning into their full-time advocate and ally. Working on the supplier side, I know how essential travel advisors are to business; and now I get to help them grow as travel professionals. Working for their trade association is incredibly rewarding.
TRO: ASTA supports the advisor in many ways, one being legal matters. Which brings me to California Assembly Bill 5. Do you have any updates on this from your position?
KB: I am incredibly proud of the work that our Advocacy staff and ASTA members did to ensure travel advisors were exempt from AB 5! This was a huge win for our members and the industry. AB 5, as previously noted, threatened the business model of travel agencies in California that rely on independent contractors to sell travel. The new amendment would add travel agency services regulated by California’s Seller of Travel law to the list of “Professional Services” exempt from the bill’s impacts.
TRO: You volunteer with Horton’s Kids, a program that helps kids in rough circumstances and empowers them for a better head-start into the world. What made you begin volunteering with them, and how do they help?
KB: After five years of volunteering with Horton’s Kids I recently transitioned to N Street Village, an incredible resource for homeless and low-income women in Washington, D.C. Whether it was weekly tutoring sessions and holiday parties with Horton’s Kids or the weekly meal service with N Street Village, volunteering will always be an important part of my life.
TRO: Creating outreach campaigns for suppliers can be tricky in today’s marketing world and requires keeping up with all the new technology – which seems to change almost weekly. How do you stay up to date with the latest trends in the field?
KB: Our supplier and advisor members do a great job of keeping us informed. No matter how much the technology changes, the mission is always the same: sharing important messages with the travel agency community. It is great to have our own vehicles of communication – ASTA Travel Advisor Daily and ASTA Travel Advisor Magazine. These platforms allow us to stay in touch with our members and host conversations for our partners. Technology changes, trends come and go, but ASTA does an excellent job of connecting partners and advisor members both in person and virtually.
TRO: Does ASTA have anything big coming up that would be of interest to advisors?
KB: We have so many exciting events and programs that are valuable to advisors! Whether we are elevating our members’ businesses through ASTA Verified Travel Advisor and ASTA Benchmarking Program, taking advisors to international destinations or having critical conversations at ASTA Global Convention, there is always something new and exciting happening! Keep your eye on ASTA’s consumer facing website, travelsense.org- this is an essential tool for successful ASTA travel advisors!
TRO: Kelly, thank you for your time.
KB: My pleasure!
For more information about ASTA, please visit https://www.asta.org/