ASTA-LA Holds LA Conference

Ever-changing event educated travel agents on destinations and technology trends By: Mindy Poder
ASTA Los Angeles // (c) 2012 Crystal Dimond
ASTA Los Angeles // (c) 2012 Crystal Dimond

The Details

ASTA-LA, also known as the Travel Retailing and Destination Expo, attracted approximately 1,300 travel agents, media and suppliers during the weekend of Sept. 7-9. At a press conference during the event, Nina Meyer, president and interim CEO of ASTA, said that she was thrilled with these numbers and attributed the turn-out to several factors. Meyer said that ASTA poured over feedback from the last conference in Las Vegas to decide what changes to make in order to attract more visitors. Some solutions included changing the venue and the destination. This year’s conference in Los Angeles at the Los Angeles Convention Center was the first to take place outside of Las Vegas or Orlando, Fla. The move from the mid-week to the weekend was also a requested change from past attendants.

Another strategy to attract more vendors and travel agents was to partner with other organizations and new markets. Preceding the tradeshow was a day of NACTA events. Though ASTA owns NACTA, NACTA had not been part of the ASTA Tradeshow in the past. Meyer said that ASTA and NACTA will join together for more joint events in an effort to bring more people to vendors.

Meyer also discussed the new Hispanic initiative, meant to bring in a new audience. According to Meyer, the Hispanic Caucus, hosted by Olga M. Ramudo, brought new faces to ASTA including representatives from around the industry as well as Latin language media.

Meyer also discussed other new relationships for ASTA, such as CLIA and Microsoft. The Microsoft partnership is an attempt to help travel agents better use technology. Microsoft stores will teach travel agencies how to be more productive with technology tools. The CLIA initiative is aimed at finding jobs for veterans.

The educational program featured sessions focused on the following themes: leadership and industry affairs, business productivity, marketing and destination/product. Session topics included “Hot Technologies 2012: It’s Social, Mobile & Local” with James Spellos; “CLIA Certification Credit - Clever Ways to Close the Sales” with John Bateman; and “Is it Legal? - The Do’s and Don’ts for Travel Professionals” with Johnathan Howe. Destinations such as Israel, Puerto Rico, Brazil’s Amazonas, Estonia, India, Los Angeles and Dubai — the sight of ASTA’s International Destination Expo 2013--held sessions. The conference educated participants about the host city — Los Angeles — through sessions as well as included sightseeing opportunities, such as tours of the U.S.S. Iowa and complimentary entrance to Universal Studios Hollywood. This year also saw the return of the popular Travel Blogger Show. Bethany Salvon and Randall Kalp II led the advanced session “Is Your Blog ‘Pinteresting,’” which focused on how to best use the social media platform, Pinterest.

At the ASTA-LA expo, travel agents were able to receive one-on-one attention with a number of vendors, including hotel brands, destination representatives, tour operators and more. Other events included an al fresco opening reception at Icon-LA Ultra Lounge, YPS’ 10-year Anniversary Party at Lucky Strike bowling and the ASTA Advocacy Dinner.

Throughout the event, ASTA-LA attendees tweeted about the weekend’s events. Here are some tweets that highlight the energy and conversation of the event:

Pinterest is fastest growing site in the world and drives more referral Traffic than twitter. Pinteresting. #tbsla#ASTALA

2020: Travel agencies won't need to consider which social network to use, because you'll be on all of them. #ASTALA#ASTAYPS

Marc Mancini asks “are we focusing enough on food in our clients travel planning” thought provoking seminar #astala#astayps

In travel, it's increasingly about mobile - James Spellos. #ASTALA#ASTAYPS

By 2020 Pinterest and Instagram will be your travel brochures. - Jim Spellos #ASTALA

Amazonas, Brazil at #ASTALA is beautiful: black rivers, huge archipelagos, floating forests, more than 360 waterfalls @Cultura_AM

From the audience: Caution travelers read reviews knowing diff ppl see diff things, but an agent can give u exactly what u want. #ASTALA

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