ASTA, Critics Split on Next Steps

Plan to give industry giants seats on ASTA board continues to be a major point of contention

By: Robert Carlsen

ASTA and the coalition that successfully opposed a recent reorganization plan, apparently cannot agree on certain aspects of a new proposal.

During a recent conference call, “we essentially agreed to disagree on certain aspects,” said Stan Morse, a coalition member and president of the Hudson Valley, N.Y., chapter. “We also realized that both sides will need to compromise to get this process done.”

ASTA President Richard Copland told coalition members that the society’s board of directors would discuss its next steps during a meeting this week.

ASTA members rejected the initial proposal in a 855-539 vote last month. The defining issue of contention concerns plans to appoint new members-at-large to the ASTA board.

ASTA President Richard Copland had indicated that the three positions would be filled by representatives of “major players” in the industry, such as American Express and He said their involvement would “help remove the fragmentation in the industry” and give agents more clout in lobbying efforts.

Since the defeat, however, Copland now is proposing the addition of only two members.

“I think our concern is, can we control their influence?” said Morse. “Do we want new blood? Yes. Do we want their money? Yes. But what do we get for their money?”

Morse said Copland was undecided whether a new task force would be formed to create an alternate plan or some other process would be used.

Morse, however, said coalition members stressed that changes are needed. “We want change, we’ve got to make some moves,” he said. “What we’re saying to him is don’t do away with the good chapters; the chapter system is our strength.”

The original proposal would have cut the number of chapters to 14 from 32.

He said the coalition recommended looking closely at chapter operations, and perhaps basing any reduction on performance issues.

With all the outside forces affecting the travel agent community, such as the war and uncertain economy, Morse said a new referendum might not be ready for a vote until October.

But, he said, he hopes it will be sooner and thinks organization members should gather at the coming Southern and Western regional meeting to “hash this out.”

Meanwhile, the coalition is asking all interested ASTA members to submit comments on realistic changes they would like to see or “how they believe ASTA could save money in these difficult times without negatively impacting our members’ needs any more than is absolutely necessary,” according to a recent e-mail.

Members are asked to send ideas to