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Sunday, 03 May 2015 09:37

ASTA is Back

Written by  Douglas Cooke
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Ok, ASTA never actually left but, I for one have questioned the relevance of this once powerful trade organization over the past several years. I understood the importance of their ongoing role as an advocate for the travel agent distribution system, but I felt more needed to be done in terms of consumer awareness of the need to book with a travel agent. Add to this declining agent membership, and changes in their annual congress and I began to question the future
of ASTA.

However, I am pleased to say that my opinion of ASTA has done a complete reversal, and I believe that ASTA once again has a bright future and an important role in the travel industry. Today’s ASTA is a leaner, meaner organization focused on meeting the needs of its travel industry members. While governmental advocacy continues to be a prominent part of their business model, travel agent education and promotion is equally as important. A quick glance at reveals a travel agent locator as well as a reasons why consumers should book with a
Travel Agent.

Agent Membership and Education
Membership in ASTA is on the rise once again as well. One clear indicator of the newly restored confidence in ASTA is the requirement by several large consortia (MAST, Signature, Travel Leaders and Ensemble) that their member agencies are ASTA members as well. The number of ASTA travel agent members has increased to over 9,000.
ASTA provides many opportunities for agents to develop their professional and industry knowledge. From white papers and webinars to International Destination Expos and the annual Global Convention, ASTA is providing agents with web-based and live learning experiences.
    Some of my fondest industry memories are from ASTA World Congresses over the years. Without question, my best industry memory was during the congress held in Egypt during 1992, watching fireworks over the pyramids from a Bedouin themed event on a nearby plateau with over 5,000 other industry attendees. And while the week long World Congress events of this size are now history, what has replaced them is the shorter duration ASTA Global Convention packed with learning and networking opportunities. This year’s convention, scheduled for August 29 - September 1 in Washington, DC at the Omni Shoreham Hotel will provide a forum for travel professionals, and travel suppliers worldwide to connect and establish new business relationships. It also affords a chance to learn the latest consumer travel trends and happenings in terms of technology, products and destinations. New this year at AGC 2015, the Global Travel Exchange will bring U.S. corporate and leisure agencies together with like-minded international agencies and tour operators to facilitate the interaction of international leisure-based agencies and tour operators with ASTA’s U.S.-based travel agencies. Visit to register.
    JAX FAX recently returned from ASTA’s Destination Expo in Marrakech, Morocco. Over 300 agents attended this trip and experienced exceptional educational, cultural and social gatherings. See page 49 for photo highlights of this great event.

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