ASTA, in its search to replace exiting CEO Tony Gonchar, should hire a CEO who is committed to developing a truly global organization that represents the worldwide travel agent industry.
That’s the view of ASTA past-president Mike Spinelli, CTC. Such a move could reverse the decline in ASTA membership and return the Society to its days as the preeminent global travel industry organization, he told Travel Market Report.
ASTA needs a global path
“Since the Internet has given birth to a global economy, with the U.S. being the largest sender of tourists to the rest of the world, the path for ASTA becomes clearly obvious. This path will give ASTA a worldwide portal,” said Spinelli, founder of the ACTION 6 consortium, now part of Vacation.com.
A strong international membership base would also benefit U.S. members, who could leverage their international links to develop inbound tourism, which he called, “a new bonanza for the 21st century.”
“There is currently no international association of travel agents that amounts to anything,” said Spinelli.
The U.S. travel industry, he noted, is a world leader and could easily operate such an international organization.
Decline in international presence
Spinelli noted the decline in ASTA’s international presence. The organization currently has chapters in 120 countries, down from 172 when Spinelli was president a little over a decade ago.
The major complaints from international members he received during his time as ASTA president was that they felt they were treated as second-class citizens.
To succeed as a global organization, reflecting the truly worldwide industry that travel has become, ASTA must treat international members as first-class citizens on par with its U.S. membership, according to Spinelli.
He outlined the steps that ASTA ought to take to rebuild its international presence.
1. Seek out a CEO who thinks globally and understands the value of ASTA’s being an organization that provides the services travel agents and receptive operators abroad need – namely, networking for business opportunities and education and training.
2. Appoint a vice president of global operations to lead an international membership drive, first in Europe and then in other areas of the globe. This VP would also manage communications with international members, especially focused on how they could get business from the U.S. markets.
3. Provide training programs for international members focused specifically on generating business from the U.S. – both via webinars and personal meetings.
4. Provide a display logo designed specifically for international members, with a date on it to encourage renewal of memberships.