ASTA Tests New Membership Structure

*Ships return to Cozumel
*Agent of the Year
*Google Testing Travel Service

ASTA announced Nov. 6 that alpha-stage testing for their new business plan began Nov. 1, and is planned to conclude Jan. 31. The new model provides an array of online services for Core members, including peer assistance, an E-Library with responses to frequently asked questions, a Broken Promises list of supplies that don’t honor agent commitments and an industry business number.

Agencies that choose to become Premium members will be able to take advantage of working with an account management team, customized research, extensive networking opportunities and a higher level of involvement in federal and state government relations, among other benefits.

“With the alpha test, we are engaging agencies to determine their exact needs and communication preferences,” said ASTA President and CEO Kathy W. Sudeikis, CTC. “These travel agencies are the focal point of the new concept for the industry’s association, so it is crucial that we have the clearest understanding of their needs and wants.”

Participating agencies will be asked to review written materials and respond to surveys in an effort to get an understanding of how to tailor the new plan to meet travel agency needs.

Ships Return to Cozumel

Passenger cruise ships returned to Cozumel in mid-November, a sign that the island is recovering from the pounding it suffered from Hurricane Wilma. During the week of Nov. 14-19, 14 ships called at Cozumel, including Carnival Triumph, Carnival Miracle and Carnival Conquest; Celebrity’s Galaxy and Zenith; Norwegian Dream, Norwegian Sun and Norwegian Majesty; Star Princess and Coral Princess; and Jewel of the Seas, Rhapsody of the Seas and Enchantment of the Seas.

The returning ships were greeted with the Festival del Mar Caribe, a fiesta that featured music and dance performances, local artisans, mariachi bands and street vendors. Cruise passengers also received a personal welcome letter from Cozumel mayor Gustavo Ortega.

Cozumel is the top cruise port in Mexico and the western Caribbean, and tourism officials were especially eager to get cruise-passenger travel back on line. Officials report that deep-water reefs, popular caverns and the Mayan ruins at San Gervasio were undamaged. Ninety-five percent of the shops and restaurants have reopened. Fiesta Holidays is open for snorkeling tours and car rentals. Cozumel Country Club’s nine-hole golf course and the Atlantis Submarine attraction are both scheduled to reopen in December. Punta Sur ecological park is currently open for jeep tours, and reconstruction is under way at Chankanaab National Park, with the tentative opening date scheduled for Dec. 20. Ana Figueroa

Agent of the Year

Susan Tanzman, owner and president of Martin’s Travel and Tours Inc., in Los Angeles, was the recipient of ASTA’s 2005 Travel Agent of the Year Award at ASTA’s 75th World Travel Congress in Montreal.

“Susan Tanzman has been at the forefront of promoting the travel agent throughout her career. She has worked endless hours in the political arena in California and chaired ASTA’s 2002 World Travel Congress in Honolulu,” said Kathy W. Sudeikis, CTC, ASTA president and CEO.

Tanzman has been active in ASTA, serving as chairperson of ASTA’s 2002 World Travel Congress and co-chair of ASTA’s Western Regional in 1992. From 1990-1992 she served on ASTA’s Board of Directors, from 1992 to 1994 she was ASTA’s national vice president, and in 1994 became vice president and secretary.

Google Testing Travel Service

Google is experimenting with travel search and comparison shopping of sorts.

The model appears to resemble Travelzoo’s SuperSearch and Smarter Living’s Booking Buddy, both of which prompt users to select advertisers’ flight-search engines one at a time instead of running simultaneous comparisons as one does through Yahoo FareChase, SideStep or

Google’s flight-search product works in the standard Google search box.

If you enter two airport codes or cities into the Google search box, the results include two boxes to manipulate desired flight dates. Below them are search engines side by side from, Hotwire and Orbitz.

Orbitz spokesman Brian Hoyt said the Google beta fits in with Orbitz’s overall e-marketing efforts.

Bigger and Better in Texas

The Lakeway Inn Conference Resort of Austin, Tex., held groundbreaking ceremonies on Nov. 15 for their expansion and renovation. During the ceremony, plans were unveiled to transform the current property into a full-service, four-star resort and spa. Completion is set for May 2006.

“The new resort will not only grow our conference clientele, but will also attract families and vacationers like no other destination in Central Texas,” said Andy Dolce, CEO and founder of Dolce International, at the event.

Lakeway Inn has recently been re-flagged as a Dolce International property.

Upgrades are designed to include a grand lobby entrance, the creation of 16 spa guestrooms, construction of a 5,200-square-foot glass-windowed ballroom jetting out over Lake Travis, an improved Travis Restaurant and a 5,500-square-foot spa and fitness center.

ESPN X Games Dubai 2005

ESPN X Games Dubai 2005 presented by Mountain Dew will make its Middle East debut Dec. 7-9. The event, which attracts world-class athletes in skateboarding, in-line skating, BMX and Moto X, will take place in the United Arab Emirates. Dubai Creek Park, the second largest park in Dubai, will serve as the venue. Admission to the ESPN X Games Dubai is free.

Highest Traveler Numbers

U.S. Customs and Border Protection (CBP) announced that 86 million air passengers were cleared into the U.S. during the 2005 fiscal year, making it the highest number in history. This also marks the first year that the number of air passengers exceeds pre-Sept. 11 figures. CBP also cleared over 26 million passengers and crew from seagoing vessels, mostly passengers onboard cruise ships.