ASTA Group Opposes Reorganization

Dissenters want power left with local chapters, object to industry board appointments

By: Robert Carlsen

A splinter group of ASTA officers is campaigning against a proposed change in regional representation that is going to a membership vote Feb. 20.

The group, comprised of current and past chapter presidents, area directors and national board officers, wants national ASTA to rethink its proposal for sweeping change (News, Dec. 16) and leave power with the local chapters.

“Our power is from individual members on the grassroots level,” said Linda Rawlings, area 16 (Rocky Mountain and Arizona) director and one of the group’s spokespersons.

Rawlings noted that, if the proposal passes, she would be the area director of a region stretching “from Yuma to Nome.”

ASTA’s board of directors voted 16 to 7 in December to reduce the number of chapters to 14 from 32 and areas to 7 from 16, which would reduce official ASTA positions to 30 from 55.

The savings, including communication, travel and staff expenditures, would be in the neighborhood of $500,000 in the first two years, ASTA said. ASTA’s treasurer, Mary Louise Seifert, said current governance costs are $1.2 million annually.

The splinter group questions the $1.2 million figure.

“If there are 55 elected members and together they spend $1.2 million per year, that gives each of them $22,000 to spend,” Rawlings said.

“I don’t think so. We certainly don’t spend that much at our chapter.” Of the $500,000 savings over two years, Rawlings said she also doesn’t know how ASTA came up with that amount.

“Because of the grandfathering of current elected officials the first year, the savings alone the first year is virtually nothing,” she said.

Rawlings said ASTA’s proposal was prepared without consulting members. “ASTA said the task force for governance changes worked on this proposal for nine months, but we had no direct input everything was done in secrecy,” Rawlings said.

The splinter group also has a major objection to the proposed addition of three members-at-large to the board of directors.

The posts are widely believed to be intended for the “big guys” when ASTA President Richard Copland was questioned, he threw out the names of, Rosenbluth, Carlson Wagonlit and Expedia.

Copland said he is at a loss to explain why his membership would object to having major industry players represented on the organization’s board.

“Why would anybody think they have a different agenda and can’t help us?” he asked.

Rawlings said her group does not want representatives of the industry giants to be appointed to the board but has no objections to them serving in a non-voting capacity.

Rawlings said that her group agrees something needs to be done to save ASTA, but she stressed that the strength of the association always has been with its independent travel agency owners and employees.