With travel agents more popular in general, and travelers feeling more confident about traveling more, both NACTA and ASTA are growing their membership bases, and seeing greater interest in events, said Ann Chamberlin, president of NACTA and a senior vice president for ASTA.
“It’s important that agents connect with one another,” Chamberlin said, “and when their business is doing well, it affords them the opportunity to attend events. We’re filling these meetings and events up. They want to spend the money to learn. Business is good.”
The mood among agents is “very good,” she said, “with ASTA and NACTA agents wanting to be more participatory and involved.” Increasing the number of ASTA chapters will allow for more information sharing, events and other coordination between NACTA and ASTA chapters.
Last year, ASTA introduced a number of partnerships with suppliers and consortia/host agencies to help fund agent memberships, including Royal Caribbean and Carnival cruise lines. It plans to introduce more partnerships this year, Chamberlin said.
As a result, the growth in membership is going “very well,” Chamberlin said. “We have grown the number of independent contractors (ICs) more than double what we had a year ago at this time. Host agencies helped a lot to drive that. That’ll continue as the host agencies and full-service agencies want to ensure that their agents are professional.”
The two organizations also are more inclusive in nature toward one another since Chamberlin took on
her SVP role at ASTA, and NACTA members are invited to attend ASTA events.
“We’ve broadened the arena for more chapter presidents, for NACTA people to serve on the ASTA side,” she said. “NACTA is very much about community and learning from each other. ICs work from home, so they want to go to chapter activities to share what they learn and learn what to avoid.”
More local chapters
With the growth in membership comes the opportunity to increase the number of chapters so agents don’t have to travel as far to get to a meeting. Chamberlin said ASTA is hoping to introduce 10 new chapters this year, though she had no specifics on what states or regions might see them.
To assist the organization, late last year ASTA hired Kim Sherrit as manager of membership and chapter development, providing more expertise in how to attract and serve this growing niche of agents. She works with its three new area chapter directors to grow “ASTA membership and foster chapter development and growth.” Sherrit previously was manager of business development and education at host agency Nexion.
New Consumer Awareness Committee announced
ASTA today also announced the creation of a Consumer Awareness Committee made up of 13 industry representatives with marketing, social media and consumer awareness experience.
The committee’s launch follows on a year where consumer awareness about travel agents has grown. Both ASTA and industry marketing communications company MMGY have documented the rise in use of travel agents.
“Raising consumer awareness regarding the value of using a travel agent is a critical part of ASTA’s mission,” said Zane Kerby, ASTA President & CEO.
Consumer Awareness Committee members are:
Misty Ewing Belles, managing director, global public relations, Virtuoso, Washington, DC
Carolyn Cauceglia, vice president, strategic sales, Amadeus North America Inc., Miami
Brian Chapin, senior director, air & travel solutions, Ensemble Travel Group, Chicago
Karryn Christopher, senior vice president, sales & marketing, Signature Travel Network, Los Angeles
Jay Ellenby, president, Safe Harbors Business Travel, Bel Air, MD and chair, ASTA Board of Directors
Jackie Friedman, president, Nexion LLC, Irving, TX
Betsy Geiser, vice president, Uniglobe Travel Center, Irvine, CA and Member, ASTA Board of Directors
Ron Gulaskey, associate vice president, national and strategic accounts – North America, Celebrity Cruises, Miami
Brian Hegarty, vice president, marketing, Travel Leaders Network, Plymouth, MN
Scott Koepf, senior vice president, sales, Avoya Travel, San Diego, CA and member, ASTA Board of Directors
Jenn Lee, vice president, sales & marketing, Travel Planners International, Maitland, FL
Sharon Poulos, director of marketing – Americas, Travelport, Atlanta
Chris Seddelmeyer, Seddelmeyer Travel Concepts, Lima. OH, and Member, ASTA Board of Directors