ASTA: In With the New

ASTA has announced big plans for the new year

By: Judy Koutsky

The American Society of Travel Agents (ASTA) announced that they are restructuring their membership, redefining their branding initiatives, including their mission and vision statements, and giving their Web site an online face-lift.

William A. Maloney, ASTA COO said: “We’ve taken a long look at how we can adjust our image, enhance our product and shift our messaging to reflect what ASTA represents at this phase in its evolution. Our job is to remove the barriers and red tape that keep small business owners from getting ahead in the game.”

He goes on to say: “In the course of a day, most of these business owners don’t have time to keep up with some of the important issues, like changing tax laws, airline and GDS mergers, security regulations and so forth. They just want the news in laymen terms and to know specifically, how it affects them. So, we’ve made it our business to filter the messages, so that our members can focus on what’s most important the business of selling travel.”

To that end, ASTA’s new mission statement is to “facilitate the business of selling travel through effective representation, shared knowledge and the enhancement of professionalism.” Their new vision statement “seeks a retail travel marketplace that is profitable, growing and a rewarding place to work, invest and do business.”

ASTA has launched an ambitious new business model that organizes its membership into two categories: Travel Agent and Premium Travel Agency.

Premium Travel Agency members will receive an array of concierge-level services, including an assigned relationship manager, who will provide one-on-one assistance with their business needs.

This membership can be utilized by the agency official in ASTA’s records, as well as four additional employees.

With a complete host of concierge-level services at their fingertips, Maloney says: “Every Premium Travel Agency member will have a solution for any issue or a pathway to a solution.”

Premium Travel Agency membership will provide agents personalized business consulting; Web site consulting; market and economic data research; exclusive invitations to business networking forums; technology analysis; public relations assistance; as a specialist resource for the agency's own counsel to consult.

Research will be customizable to help members build business intelligence; market and economic data will be specific to individual agencies and locations.

Premium Travel Agency members will also have an opportunity to shape ASTA’s political agenda at two annual face-to-face business summits, where members will meet with peer industry leaders.

Maloney says: “Those small agencies that do not have full-time legal assistance will have complete access to ASTA’s online resources on matters such as independent contractor versus employee issues; sellers of travel laws; faxing laws; contract issues and general liability questions, like ‘I organized a group tour and the customers were supposed to pay by a certain date. Can I keep their deposits?’ These are the types of questions our members are faced with everyday; but until now, many haven’t had a place to turn for answers. “

He continues: “When Premium Travel Agency members need assistance with a media plan or press release, they can pick up the phone and call our communications department for one-on-one consultation and get help with everything from personalized media training to writing editorials. In addition, ASTA’s eJournal will provide in-depth, professional analysis of issues affecting retail travel businesses, such as major economic and sector trends and practical approaches to shared challenges. We are leaving no stone unturned. Our members will have complete access to all the tools and resources they need to be successful. “

To that end, Maloney reported that they’ve already signed up 56 Premium Travel Agency members, with a goal 300 for the year. Those who sign on by Feb. 2 will be identified as Charter Premium members. The cost is $2, 500.

The Travel Agent membership provides advanced education resources, consumer outreach and professional networking opportunities, use of the ASTA logo in promotions and news updates and industry alerts. The cost is $250.

In addition to the changes in its membership structure, ASTA is revamping its Website, Changes include redesign of the site including modernizing its appearance, adding new features and creating easier navigation. Additionally the Website will be more robust with an improved search engine so it’s easier to find and access the information agents need. The eLibrary will be an electronic storehouse for a vast amount of critical industry information that will be accessible only to ASTA members.

ASTA also wants to help agencies of all sizes generate more leads and sales online. To that end, a new agreement between Resolve Digital and ASTA provides for low-cost, professional Website evaluation to ASTA members worldwide.

ASTA’s new logo was also unveiled. Maloney describes the new logo as “modern and fresh.” To reflect ASTA’s philosophy of a global industry, they designed a globe-like image to represent their vision of bringing together different countries, cultures and values.

“Offering a warm and vivid tone, our new logo offers a crisp and even look to the name we pride ourselves for,” says Maloney. “We’ve kept the traditional blue color and enhanced it with a modern element to stress its visibility.”

The logo, when seen on an ASTA member’s Web site or media mailing should serve to convey trust to the consumer. The logo with the prominent ASTA name should convey the idea that “without an ASTA travel agent, you are on your own.”