“Engagement at all levels, from the board to the chapter presidents to the consortia, worked magic,” says Corporate Advisory Council (CAC) chair Jennifer Wilson-Buttigieg.
“Heading into Monday night’s ASTA Advocacy Dinner, contributions to ASTAPAC are the highest they have ever been,” says Jennifer Wilson-Buttigieg of Valerie Wilson Travel in New York, who is co-chair of ASTA's Government and Political Affairs Committee, along with Chris Seddelmeyer.
Achieving this success was a peer-to-peer effort that began with setting goals for each touchpoint at ASTA: the board, the chapter presidents, the CAC, and for the premium and consortia members. “It’s all about engagement on all levels,” Wilson-Buttigieg says.
To help spur support, ASTA offered a charitable match. If ASTA members donate more than $1,000 to the PAC, 50% is donated back to a charity of their choice. “We encouraged everyone to double their contribution level,” Wilson-Buttigieg told TMR. For example, “if you gave $500 or more last year, and you double it this year to at least $1,000, ASTAPAC will then donate a $500 check back to the charity of your choice, so you can support your local community and promote ASTA while you do it. We want to be more proactive about getting people involved and to help people understand the importance of our PAC.”
Meanwhile, the CAC also has been taking a careful look at its vision and its mission. “Now is a pivotal time to set goals for 2017 through 2020, and to refocus on advocacy and speaking in one voice. CAC is not just for corporations, it’s not just for mega agencies; it’s for all businesses in the travel space. We’re keeping the name ‘Corporate Advisory Council’ but repositioning its message, looking at the word ‘corporate’ and shifting it to include companies that are the biggest influencers in the travel industry: a consortium like Virtuoso, a TMC like Valerie Wilson Travel, or a host like Nexion,” she said.
The CAC, which currently has 44 members, is considering whether it wants to be larger, and if so, just how large. The end goal is “to advise ASTA on its advocacy efforts, to have the most successful Legislative Day we’ve ever had, like we did this year, and to grow ASTAPAC every year. This year’s Travel Agent Retail Fairness Act marked the first time ASTA ever created a bipartisan bill in Congress. As part of our advocacy efforts, Legislative Day participants educated our congress members on other topics like the laptop ban and travel to Cuba.”
In the end, “the CAC is a sub-association that actively supports ASTA with our time, with our resources, and with our feedback. When ASTA is looking for an opinion, they go to the CAC for benchmarking and comments,” she said.
Since taking over the two-year role of co-chair of the CAC in September 2016, Wilson-Buttigieg has been overseeing a SWOT analysis project looking at “what have we done and what haven’t we done? How do we make it really simple so members know what we need is their active participation on many levels?”
To that end, the CAC has been creating a CAC 101 Mentoring Program for new members. “There is so much power in this group, but someone has to show them the ropes to nurture growth.” Dr. Jennifer Runkle, PhD, is serving as the CAC project manager “to keep our strategic plan moving forward, finalize the mission, create a communication plan and the 101 plan for new members, as well as holding our feet to the fire to keep us on path. This is a vital part of re-branding the CAC so we can continue to execute future priorities.”
Without a strong trade association, "we’re all working as islands,” she said. “It’s tremendous to see the significant and incremental change that’s occurring at all levels of ASTA. People are just starting to understand the importance of supporting ASTA and speaking in one unified voice.”