ASTA last week launched a video campaign to promote all that travel agents do to help consumers, and the group’s continuing effort to advocate on behalf of agents in Washington. “ASTA Advocacy in Action” is posted on ASTA.org.
“This is just the beginning,” ASTA vice president of communications Jennifer Michels Jones told TMR. “We’re hoping to do some interesting and fun videos, maybe a ‘A Day in the Life of a Travel Agent,’ to really explain to travelers what agents do, and how easy it is to work with one. I think sometimes consumers are a little afraid of the buyer/agent relationship.”
Jones noted that ASTA also has revamped its consumer website, TravelSense.org, to make it easier for travelers to find an agent. The site sends sales leads directly to ASTA members who list their profiles there. “We want to push the message that it just makes sense to use a travel agent,” she said.
In addition to this broader consumer awareness video project, James Shillinglaw, Travel Market Report’s editor at large, has been helping ASTA inform members and non-members on its vision for the future, such as in this one taped at the ASTA Premium Business Summit that explains ASTA’s consumer awareness efforts, among other things.
ASTA also is co-sponsoring a video contest for Canadian travel agents with Travel Market Report for TMR’s Travel Marketplace conference in Toronto on May 2-3. The travel agent who submits the best best two-minute video on the theme “Without a Travel Agent You Really Are on Your Own” will win a cruise for two on Norwegian Cruise Line, and the runner-up will win Big Bark personalized promotional materials plus $1,000CAD in printing services.
Also in the works at ASTA is consumer research to better understand the buying patterns and decision-making process customers go through before booking trips. Sponsored by Carnival Corporation for the third year in a row, the research is designed to give ASTA members a better sense of trends in the industry.
And finally, coming to stands next month in the June issue of Oprah’s O Magazine, is an article highlighting ASTA’s “without a travel agent you’re on your own” tagline. The magazine reaches 2.3 million consumers.
Agents agree on the importance of joining
ASTA members are supportive of the organization, and some are downright passionate about the importance of the association.
“If you are serious about the business, you need to take an interest in ASTA,” said Toni Lanotte-Day, president of Toni Tours Inc. in Levittown, NY, and a member of the ASTA National Board of Directors and Northeast Regional Director for NACTA. “Agents need to stop riding on the coattails of other members who pay to join ASTA to get things done. You can’t be a realtor in New York State unless you are a member of a trade association, and it really should be the same way for professional travel agents.”
Lanotte-Day noted the new reduced membership that ASTA is offering independent contractors—just $199, “and you get all the benefits and voting privileges. It’s less than $20 a month and you can write it off your taxes,” she said. “We’re hoping it will drive those who are undecided to join.”
It worked with Helen Prochilo, travel expert at Promal Vacations in Long Beach, NY, who was a member of NACTA but not ASTA until the new rate drew her in.
“I joined a few years ago and then I stopped going because I felt I just couldn’t afford it, but the $199 was a reasonable rate and I signed back up,” she said. “I’m happy to be supporting ASTA, and it’s interesting to hear [ASTA president] Zane Kerby talk about how ASTA has just four lobbyists” in Washington standing up for travel agents, while the airlines and cruise lines have so many more.