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Published on : Tuesday, December 22, 2015
The American Society of Travel Agents (ASTA) has set an aggressive agenda to promote and defend the travel agent community in general—and ASTA members in particular—in 2016. This includes everything from a new membership category for Independent Contractors to increased grassroots organizing to a direct injection of marketing dollars from U.S.-based chapters for consumer awareness.
In mid-2016 ASTA will create a new Independent Contractor (IC) membership category of $199 per year for ICs who are affiliated with an ASTA Premium Agency Member and who sign a two-year agreement, or who are already a National Association of Career Travel Agents (NACTA) member. “For the past two years ASTA’s large consortia members have been showing an enhanced commitment to the association by subsidizing and mandating membership. We believe a tiered membership structure is the best way for members to pay according to their ability based on sales, and the new IC category is another way to help those agents who want to join ASTA to do so,” said President and CEO Zane Kerby. Travel agents will see more details about this new membership category, which was approved by the ASTA national Board of Directors on Dec. 15, in the coming weeks.
Regarding travel agent consumer awareness efforts, ASTA’s Chapter Presidents Council (CPC) has voted to allocate money from chapter funds to ASTA headquarters for projects that will promote the use of ASTA member agents. “Widely promoting trusted travel agents and the incredible work they do is one of our top priorities in 2016,” said Kerby. This will include a revamped TravelSense.org consumer website that connects travelers with ASTA members. “Just last week a board member told me he made a $23,000 commission from a trip quote requested by a TravelSense.org user. This is a major member benefit we hope to enhance next year that puts money directly in ASTA members’ pockets.”
ASTA also has an equally impressive list of priorities to defend and promote agents on the government and industry affairs fronts in 2016. Much of that effort involves little-known skirmishes in state legislatures across the country. In 2015, for example, ASTA and its members helped save the industry $110 million per year in new taxes thanks to battles fought and won on sales and hotel tax expansion proposals in Maine, Maryland, Ohio, Virginia, Washington and Wisconsin.