ASTA Honors Top Travel Agents, Agency Groups for Advocacy Work

by James Shillinglaw

ASTA honored its most active members for their work in travel agency advocacy during a black tie dinner at the 2016 ASTA Global Convention in Reno, NV. Barbara O'Hara Advocacy Awards were presented to Roger Hale, president and CEO of ADTRAV Travel Management in Birmingham, AL, and to ASTA’s Midwest Chapter, for their work to promote travel agent causes.

Hale was honored for his ASTAPAC fundraising campaign, which has raised more than $2,500 from 46 employees year-to-date. ASTA’s Midwest Chapter was recognized for its PAC fundraising and grassroots work to prevent an expansion of Illinois’ sales tax to travel agency services. The chapter raised over $41,000 year-to-date through August with a 99% chapter participation rate.

In addition, for the first time two travel agency groups, Signature Travel Network and Virtuoso, were honored as 2016 ASTA Consortia of the Year in recognition for their support of ASTA and its mission to promote and defend the travel agency community. Signature, a travel agency cooperative, was the first group to mandate ASTA membership and has continued that program over the past year. Its members, including Signature president Alex Sharpe, also have been active in ASTA’s legislative lobbying campaign.

Virtuoso, the luxury travel-agency consortium, introduced a program to subsidize ASTA membership for its members, which has already led to 44 agencies joining the association, and provided its offices in Seattle for a key meeting between ASTA members and a local member of Congress. 

Awards also were given to local chapters in recognition of their support for ASTAPAC and grassroots advocacy campaigns. ASTA's Long Island Chapter won the Chapter Advocacy Award for its successful PAC fundraising campaign, which raised $71 per member on average with an 89% chapter participation rate.

ASTA also presented the inaugural ASTA Paul M. Ruden Award to Marc Casto, president and CEO of Casto Travel in San Jose, CA. Casto is the outgoing chair of ASTA’s Corporate Advisory Council, and the award was presented by incoming chair Jennifer Wilson-Buttigieg of Valerie Wilson Travel in New York, NY (and a member of the Travel Market Report Advisory Board). The award honors Paul Ruden, ASTA's former executive vice president, legal and industry affairs, who retired last September after more than 25 years on ASTA’s staff (and now writes a monthly column for TMR). 

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