SoCalASTA Forms Consumer Awareness Committee

New SoCalASTA committee creates plan for enhancing the image of travel agents By: Kenneth Shapiro
Jason Coleman (left), president of SoCalASTA, at the recent meeting // © 2011 SoCalASTA
Jason Coleman (left), president of SoCalASTA, at the recent meeting // © 2011 SoCalASTA

The Details

Last month, SoCalASTA (ASTA's Southern California chapter) held a meeting to discuss the need for greater consumer awareness. As a result of that meeting, the Consumer Awareness Committee was formed and charged with developing projects that will help generate consumer awareness of travel advisors, their role in the travel process and the benefits associated with using a professional travel advisor.

The meeting identified a number of issues that the travel agent industry continues to struggle with, including defining the term "travel advisor" while recognizing that there is a wide variety of business models and types of consultants; preparing travel advisors to respond effectively and appropriately when consumers and media question their relevance; and recognizing that a national consumer campaign is not financially feasible and, therefore, that awareness efforts are best implemented on the grassroots local level.

The SoCalASTA Consumer Awareness Committee is co-chaired by Justin Dolan, director of sales at CTA Travel in Cerritos, Calif., and Steven Jones, a representative from Los Angeles World Airports (which includes LAX and ONT). Membership on the committee is open to any travel professional in the chapter's geographic territory regardless of their ASTA membership status; however all campaigns will only feature and promote ASTA members.

The Consumer Awareness Committee's initial list of projects includes:

Southern California Parades
SoCalASTA is examining ways to participate in local parades to raise consumer awareness and promote SoCalASTA members to the traveling public. Major parades under current consideration include the Pasadena Tournament of Roses Parade, the Hollywood Christmas Parade, the L.A. Gay Pride Parade, the Kingdom Day Parade, the Catalina Island 4th of July Parade and various smaller community parades throughout our geographic territory.

Vacation Radio Magazine/Travel Minute
SoCalASTA is considering producing two online podcasts for possible future radio syndication to promote vacation travel. "Vacation Radio Magazine" is a weekly full-length program with various regular segments featuring SoCalASTA advisors and allied members presenting various topics. Travel Minute is a daily one-minute travel topic devoted to providing current travel industry news, tips and trends.

Speaker's Bureau/Public Events
SoCalASTA is exploring developing a speaker's bureau to participate in consumer events, such as the L.A. Times Travel Show, speaking at various clubs and organizations and providing media outlets with SoCalASTA advisor and allied member experts to comment and interview on various topics.

National Travel and Tourism Week/Travel Rally Day
SoCalASTA is discussing ways that the chapter can be involved in the U.S. Travel Association's National Travel and Tourism Week, and specifically Travel Rally Day on May 10. The purpose of the week is to promote the travel and tourism industry to the public and demonstrate the economic benefit of the industry to the local community. Partnership opportunities are being explored with local airports and visitors' bureaus.

Print/Internet
SoCalASTA is investigating ways to promote ASTAís member directory at TravelSense.org and make it a portal to local member advisors. Using a fresh facade, new brand name and tagline and regularly updated content, all SoCalASTA campaigns will direct traffic to this portal for the benefit of member advisors. A companion print campaign will be created to complement the new portal and all consumer-oriented projects.

Consumer Travelogues
SoCalASTA is studying the feasibility of converting its current Destination Dinner meetings to a travelogue film series that would be open to the public in addition to travel professionals. Travel professionals would arrive for a reception or dinner and supplier trade show before the film screening, and consumers would be invited to purchase tickets to the screening. Marketing tie-in programs would be created to feature SoCalASTA advisors and allied members.

Publicist/Public Relations Representative

SoCalASTA is developing a request for proposals to solicit bids from publicists and other public relations professionals to consult with the chapterís board and Consumer Awareness Committee. The role of this professional would be to recommend, direct and implement various projects that promote the use of travel advisor members to the traveling public.

Consumer Research
SoCalASTA is researching ways to survey consumers about their opinions, preferences and motivations concerning the awareness and use of travel advisors. Through the use of traveler surveys at local airports and sea ports, consumer focus groups and other data collection resources, the organization will gather valuable insights to help develop and implement other programs that target the messages that resonate with consumers.

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