The number of ASTA chapters has grown by 38% in the past 12 months, thanks to a push to break up large chapters into a more agent-friendly size.
That’s the message Steve Powers, regional director for the Northeast, delivered last night at the Long Island chapter’s annual ASTAPAC fundraiser, designed to raise money for ASTA’s lobbying efforts in Washington. Hosted by the government of Puerto Rico (which does indeed have its own ASTA chapter) at Fisherman’s Catch in Port Lookout, the dinner attracted nearly 100 current and would-be ASTA members.
“Our goal is to bring ASTA to its members rather than our members to ASTA. We had some huge chapters that covered four states,” Powers told TMR – so a monthly meeting could be hundreds of miles from where members lived.
So the Board set a goal of adding 10 new chapters during Jay Ellenby’s first year of chairmanship, which started August 15, 2016. Any area that had seven members and someone willing to become president could start a new chapter. Already on board are two new chapters, in San Diego and in Connecticut, which until now was part of the New England chapter, Powers said, and eight more are working their way through the required paperwork in hopes of being approved in time to be introduced at the ASTA Global Conference in August.
“There’s a lot of excitement in ASTA right now,” Powers said. “From my perspective it’s all about the leadership – if you have a good person they can hold meetings that generate interest and raise money and do well. When we look at potential leaders, we’re looking for people who are dynamic and can move ASTA forward. Grass-roots members are the key; people join because of the contacts they make at the chapter level, and once they come in they see what ASTA has to offer.”
In his formal presentation at the Monday night meeting, Powers noted that ASTA represents not just the interests of travel agents, but also those of the traveling public. While it cannot compete with the advertising budgets of the huge online travel agencies like Expedia, ASTA has done a great job this year promoting the use of travel agents in articles in many consumer media outlets, including an article this week in The New York Times.
For a synopsis of the presentation on Puerto Rico, meanwhile, go to “Eight Things Your Clients Probably Don't Know About Puerto Rico."