Bridging The Gap: Ann Chamberlin Assumes Hybrid Role At ASTA/NACTA

by Cheryl Rosen

Photo: NACTA

There’s a lot going on at ASTA this month, and just as much at NACTA. But Ann Chamberlin is not concerned about how much is on her plate. She’s excited about her new position as a bridge between her two favorite associations, as this month she adds the title of ASTA senior VP of Operations to her existing role as president of NACTA.

On the agenda are a slew of new ideas: a bigger role for travel agency consortia, a revamped system for choosing chapter presidents, and even the possibility of hybrid ASTA-NACTA chapters in smaller metropolitan areas.

At ASTA, Chamberlin is responsible for overseeing membership growth and support, as well as chapter programs and “continuing the consortia partnerships that Zane has been so great at establishing,” she told TMR. She is grateful for the support of the consortia, many of which have mandated that their members join ASTA or have subsidized their memberships. And going forward, she sees them assuming an even larger role. “We can add value by integrating the expertise of the consortia into our programs, having them sit on our panels and participate in our meetings and events,” she said.

Chamberlin has come a long way since she joined the travel industry in 1988, answering phones for Holland America. She rose to director of national accounts there before moving to Virtuoso, where she eventually became vice president of North America sales and service, working with travel agents in the Midwest.

She joined the staff at NACTA as vice president four years ago, eager for a job whose mission she saw as helping its 1,800 members be successful. “The independent agency channel intrigued me,” she said. “And it worked with my lifestyle, working virtually with a small team, and spending my time connecting with chapter members.” She was promoted to president in 2013.

One surprise at NACTA has been an interesting trend revealed in its recent research: that independent agents are contracting with each other to work together in an unofficial “peer-to-peer movement of like-minded independent agents who understand each other. They are teaming up to share their knowledge and expertise, banding together with a very different mind-set from ‘I’m the host and you are my agent.’ And when they go on vacation, they have back-up they can trust—that’s key when you’re not hosted.”

In her new position at ASTA, meanwhile, Chamberlin will ask the consortia to help source good candidates to serve as chapter presidents, who going forward will be appointed rather than elected. She will also seek their input in identifying new geographic areas where an ASTA chapter might be needed.

“I can see the consortia helping us identify where we need to grow, and then having their members get involved and lead a chapter,” she said.

Indeed, she has been off and running since accepting the ASTA position effective July 7. Right now ASTA is in the midst of accepting nominations for chapter presidents and its newly created position of area directors—one each for the West, the central region, and the East Coast. Existing chapter past presidents will self-nominate for the area director positions, and the chapters in each area will vote for whom they want. “So the first thing on my agenda is tackling this, to insure the success of this new chapter system,” she said.

Already Chamberlin has reached out to the consortia for nominations, “and we’ll continue to encourage other agency owners to step forward for two-year terms,” she said. “That’s our expertise on the NACTA side, how NACTA grew from 25 to 50 chapters.”

Also on her agenda is looking into the possibility of a new hybrid format for the chapters, “with a co-branded ASTA-NACTA chapter, serving both brands, in select areas.”

And of course she is immersed in building the education program for the ASTA conference in September in Reno, and the 30th anniversary celebration and program for the NACTA Conference in November.

Click here for more information on those conferences, and come on down and share your ideas, she says.

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