This Wednesday, Sept. 30, will mark the first-ever ASTA Advocacy Awareness Day, a crucial day that all U.S. travel advisors should mark on their calendar.
Vanessa McGovern, the chief sales officer for GIFTED Travel Network, spoke to Travel Market Report this week about the importance of the day and the idea behind it—to realize that, even in good times, a healthy trade association is vital for the travel industry.
“I really just want advisors to make room for ASTA and I know that there’s a lot going on in their lives right now. Our lives are just one big massive moving target and I get that and honor that, but they should know that there’s also room for ASTA. It’s really important to always make room for ASTA,” McGovern told TMR ahead of Wednesday’s sessions.
McGovern joined ASTAPAC in the fall of 2019. She made the move after being inspired by the Advocacy Dinner, which typically happens during the week of ASTA’s Global Convention, last summer.
“We had an extra invite and so we brought along one of our advisors. He had never been to an ASTA conference before, he had just become a member. He planted the seed in me because after that evening, from his point of view, he felt like everyone was walking another language.
“I thought to myself, these advocacy initiatives are only known to a small group of travel industry people. It would be easy for a new advisor to not know completely the extent of the advocacy work that ASTA is doing.”
McGovern, who will be co-hosting the day with Shannon Cunningham of Paradise Vacation Escapes, hopes that this year’s Advocacy Awareness Day helps spread the word, and raise some money, for ASTAPAC. The idea for the day was “born out of the idea that we want to increase awareness for all frontline advisors.”
“We chose to use Facebook and do Facebook Live because a lot of advisors are on Facebook all day, we wanted to use a platform that could reach a large audience and meet them where they are,” she said. “It is designed to educate the frontline advisor, sales manager, and BDMs, so they can all advocate for their profession.”
Wednesday’s Awareness Day will include 30 minute sessions starting at 10 a.m., every hour on the hour, all specifically designed to illuminate the work that ASTA has done. The session include descriptions of what legislative day is, what ASTAPAC does, sessions hosted by Zane Kerby, Jackie Friedman, and more.
“We’re going to basically share and celebrate all the wins that ASTA has made for travel advisor throughout the day to bring awareness so that that advisors can feel connected to the work that is being done on their behalf and support,” McGovern said.
Not every session is compulsory. Instead, they are designed for advisors to drop in and out throughout the day.
“The Facebook live sessions, if you can’t attend all of them it’s all good, but pick one or two and attend it. Make one 30 minute session, just to learn and get inspired as to what their trade association is doing, we can’t do what we’re doing without them.”
The day will also include a virtual cocktail party—no dress up required—for everyone who donated, including a yet-to-be-announced special guest.
“It’s a fun way to wrap up the day and to engage with each other in a social way.”
The importance of ASTA for advisors
While ASTA has been a force for the trade way before COVID-19 started impacting the world, the association has stepped up in light of the pandemic.
“One of the reasons why travel advisors were specifically named in the CARES ACT was the work done by ASTA,” McGovern said. “That may not have happened if it hadn’t been for legislative days when times are good. The last couple years, ASTA has made incredible headway with increasing the visibility of lawmakers when times are good.”
“There was a time not so long ago when government officials said advisors were like bank tellers, they didn’t exist, and now we have they names in the CARES Act,” she added.
“In terms of a donation, we ask for $5. If every single person in our industry and the travel trade distribution channel, gives $5. We’re good,” she said, adding that “if you’re really not in the position to make a donation, then share the event. Comment on the thread. Make it a point to understand the issues that ASTA Advocacy is doing on their behalf.”
Advisors can also follow along on all of ASTA’s advocacy efforts on ASTA.org/Advocacy.
“The more people at that level that get involved, the better we’ll do,” McGovern said.