Earlier this month, ASTA announced the second name change in its history — this time to the American Society of Travel Advisors — a shift away from “agents” to what they feel is a description that “more accurately reflects what consumers need now,” says Zane Kerby, president and CEO of ASTA. “I want travel advisors to be thought of in the same class of professionals as others. I want that to become ubiquitous,” says Kerby. Here at VAX, we couldn’t agree more.
This year’s convention held in August in Washington, D.C. seemed to be a celebration of that shift. I would describe the event using three words: energy, excitement and optimism. The theme of ASTA’s annual global convention was “Do Great Things.” As an industry we have an opportunity to do just that, and make a commitment to adding value to the lives of our customers, vacationers, travelers and adventurers. Gone are the days of agents as order takers. Today’s travel advisors need to be more knowledgeable, add value through service and be a part of their customers’ end-to-end experience before, during and after their trip. And as the travel industry’s only professional trade association whose business it is to promote, defend, educate and represent the entire travel industry, ASTA’s message was clear: your time is now.
Attending the event as a presenting sponsor was a wonderful experience for our brand, driven in large part to the opportunity to engage in a dialogue with many of you. This event saw small, mid-sized and large travel agencies and their travel advisors; independent and home-based advisors; and suppliers of travel-related products and services engaging with some of the industry’s top brands and representatives of those brands. We love to hear how much agents are using VAX and to experience the level of excitement around our work to expand our leisure travel marketplace. A recommendation from a knowledgeable professional is more valuable than ever. We are working hard to integrate all of the technology available within the VAX platform, making VAX the go-to resource for leisure travel pros.
This year’s event boasted more than 1,000 attendees as well as 25 educational opportunities for travel advisors. It was emceed by travel expert and television host Samantha Brown, host of Samantha Brown’s Places to Love on PBS. ASTA had the opportunity to pass the leadership torch from Jay Ellenby as chairman to David Hershberger, president of Prestige Travel/Travel Leaders in Cincinnati. Mr. Hershberger’s keynote presentation message was powerful: increase ASTA membership to amplify our collective voice. Additional keynotes included Bob Duglin from Enterprise, Vicki Freed from Royal Caribbean, Alison Taylor from American Airlines, as well as Jake Tapper, CNN anchor and chief Washington correspondent.
One of the highlights of the event was ASTA’s annual Advocacy Dinner, which celebrates the society's influence in shaping public policy affecting the travel business. It is a chance for ASTA to spotlight its members' role in the legislative process and for attendees to socialize and network with like-minded travel professionals. Here we all heard about the important role that ASTA plays in the larger geo-political landscape as well as the responsibility that they carry on behalf of every travel professional.
Over the course of the past few years, ASTA has regained momentum within Washington as well as with the industry’s top brands and agencies. If you have not had the opportunity to evaluate membership with ASTA recently, now might be a good time to revisit it. Affiliation with ASTA boosts credibility and trust with new customers, protects your livelihood by preventing costly fees and taxes and lobbies on behalf of every agent from every corner of the country. ASTA believes that it is time we all Do Great Things and one thing is certain, our voice is stronger together.
For information on this year’s event and to view photos click HERE.