ASTA-NACTA Ties Grow Closer Under Chamberlin

by James Shillinglaw
ASTA-NACTA Ties Grow Closer Under Chamberlin

One of Chamberlin’s chief tasks will be to get the consortia even more integrated with ASTA and NACTA.

In case you haven’t heard the news, NACTA (National Association of Career Travel Agents) is now even more firmly linked to ASTA. And that goes well beyond the fact that ASTA owns NACTA outright.

NACTA is still overseen by its president, Ann Chamberlin. But Chamberlin now has another job as well, as senior vice president of operations for ASTA.

“The brands will remain as two associations run separately for different audiences,” Chamberlin says. “I will just offer my expertise and work with the staff on the ASTA side for the new chapter system that has been voted on by the ASTA board, as well as overseeing the changeover of the chapters, the relationship with the travel agency consortia and membership in general.”

Focus on consortia
One of Chamberlin’s chief tasks will be to further develop a plan to get the consortia even more integrated with ASTA, NACTA and the ASTA Global Conference (AGC). Indeed, representatives of major consortia will serve on a number of panels during the conference, to help their fellow travel agents better understand how to market, sell and operate a travel business.

Most consortia are already mandate that their agency affiliates become ASTA members or subsidize the cost of ASTA membership. Chamberlin sees her role as educating agents on the value of their ASTA membership.

“A lot of that is one conversation at a time,” she says, “and we’re doing that by attending their meetings. What’s changed is that in addition to helping us financially with their members joining, now it’s also an extended dialogue. I help agents understand what their membership is contributing to and how it is benefiting them.”

Chapter oversight
One of Chamberlin’s other tasks is to facilitate the new ASTA chapter system. As of  this year, ASTA members no longer vote for chapter presidents. Instead, candidates for president self-nominate and are then appointed by the ASTA staff and a select group of existing chapter presidents. Larger agency groups, such as consortia, also are playing an active role in identifying candidates for chapter president.

In addition, ASTA now has new area directors for the West, Central and East regions who are voted in by the chapter presidents in each area. Most area directors are former chapter presidents or ASTA board members.

There are now just shy of 25 ASTA chapters, according to Chamberlin, bound by geographical lines. But ASTA may try to create more chapters based on coverage of major cities.

There must be seven ASTA agency members in a given area, with one agent willing to serve as the chapter president, plus two more to sit on the board.

With the new relationship between ASTA and NACTA, Chamberlin also is exploring creating hybrid ASTA-NACTA chapters in areas where there isn’t an ASTA representative but there is a strong NACTA agent. For example, in Seattle, NACTA member Dan Smith has served two two-year terms on ASTA’s board and is very familiar with the association and passionate about it.

Working together
Getting ASTA and NACTA to work together more closely is a major part of Chamberlin’s mission. “I would say the first thing is for the two groups to understand and appreciate each other,” she says. “NACTA members should be joining their national trade association, and ASTA being that national trade association really is a cross-section of everybody in the industry.”

There is no plan to merge the two associations, because they are two separate brands with two distinct and very loyal audiences, she notes. On the other hand, she is making a major effort to get more NACTA independent agents to join ASTA, something ASTA has made more affordable by offering a two-year $199 membership to NACTA independent agent members.

Including host agencies, suppliers and independent agents, NACTA now has roughly 1,800 members, nearly 1,700 of them being agents. But so far few agents—maybe about 100, according to Chamberlin—have signed up with ASTA, too.

“I see that changing now with my role and being able to promote ASTA to NACTA members,” she says.

Indeed, Chamberlin’s other main responsibility is to grow ASTA membership overall. She says she’ll do this by focusing on the consortia to get their members to join ASTA, as Kerby has done for the past two years. But she’ll also now focus on host agencies within NACTA, to get them to help get their independent agent affiliates join ASTA as well.

NACTA turns 30
As for NACTA itself, the group is celebrating its 30th anniversary this year. NACTA members will mark the anniversary at the group’s annual conference, Nov. 3-9 at the Westin Lauderdale, followed by a cruise on Celebrity Infinity.

On Nov. 5, during the conference, NACTA will hold a gala awards dinner, with Visit Anchorage—the sponsor of the 2017 conference—flying in fresh seafood from Alaska. The dinner will also feature awards for chapter and member of the year, as well as what Chamberlin calls “a trip down memory lane” to revisit NACTA’s history. Says Chamberlin: “We’re doing to take people through the history in a fun way.”

"The brands will remain as two associations run separately for different audiences," Chamberlin says. "I will just offer my expertise and work with the staff on the ASTA side for the new chapter system that has been voted on by the ASTA board, as well as overseeing the changeover of the chapters, the relationship with the travel agency consortia and membership in general.

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