ASTA's Comeback Is Great for Travel Agents

After reinventing itself, the travel agent advocacy group is more important than ever By: Kenneth Shapiro
Shapiro // © 2017 TravelAge West
Shapiro // © 2017 TravelAge West

This issue's cover story, "The Resurgence of ASTA" (page 14), provides an update on what's new at the American Society of Travel Agents (ASTA), as well as a look at where the organization is headed.

As the story states, it wasn't that long ago that there were serious doubts throughout the industry about the future of ASTA. I admit that I was one of the skeptics who wondered if the group (on a national level) could be relevant again. Now, I'm happy to say that reports of ASTA's demise were greatly exaggerated - the organization has retooled and refocused and is once again an important resource and partner to all travel advisors.

In fact, ASTA's relevance seems to be growing daily, especially when it comes to its advocacy work. Whatever you think of the new administration, there's little debate that legislative action is happening at a dizzying speed. Industries that don't have strong government lobbying programs run the risk of being steamrolled by legislators who may be new to government or unaware of the unintended consequences of their policy decisions. In this political climate, having an experienced industry group fighting for your rights is more valuable than ever before.

On the consumer awareness front, even though business is growing for the majority of agents, there's still a general lack of understanding among many potential travelers about the value of travel advisors. With regulations changing, dynamics between world governments shifting and social attitudes toward various nationalities becoming more fluid, booking an international vacation is clearly not best left to an algorithm. Instead, cautious consumers are going to need customized, professional advice. Without ASTA's consumer awareness initiatives, potential clients might not even think of working with an agent, and the industry will miss out on a whole new generation of clients.

Fortunately, we can now declare that ASTA is on top of it.

And just that simple statement should be a reason for optimism to all of us.

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