ASTA at a Crossroads

Kenneth Shapiro I write this from Montreal, scene of ASTA’s 75th and final World Congress. Last night, for the General Opening Session remarks, Kathy Sudeikis, ASTA president, spoke to the assembled crowd about the organization’s past and future, from a pulpit at the gothic Notre Dame Basilica in the cit

By: Kenneth Shapiro

I write this from Montreal, scene of ASTA’s 75th and final World Congress. Last night, for the General Opening Session remarks, Kathy Sudeikis, ASTA president, spoke to the assembled crowd about the organization’s past and future, from a pulpit at the gothic Notre Dame Basilica in the city’s Old Town. The setting was perhaps appropriate for an organization at a crossroads.

On a cold and rainy night, Sudeikis told the crowd of over 2,000 ASTA members and industry leaders that, while ASTA was saying goodbye to an era in the organization’s history, it was also welcoming in the future.

“Too often in the past, out of a sense of fairness, we have let the lowest common denominator set the agenda,” Sudeikis said. “Let’s change that focus and look to the best and brightest those agents who are ahead of the herd and not running with it.”

The importance of Sudeikis’ words as well as the setting was not lost on agents.

“I heard Kathy speaking, and I looked at the surroundings, and I thought to myself, ‘Lord, I hope you’re listening. We can use some help,’” said Edward Tang of consolidator C&H International in San Francisco.

“It was a very moving setting for the final congress,” said Lagring Gonzalez, owner of City Tours and Travel in Los Angeles.

ASTA has bold and innovative plans for the future including developing the pre-eminent trade show in North America and these plans are designed around a business strategy meant to keep the organization relevant, if not stronger than ever, for years to come. After the opening session, however as the rain came down in Old Montreal and industry leaders literally scurried for cover one couldn’t help but wonder if history will view this evening on sacred ground as more a baptism of the new ASTA or as a eulogy for an age gone by. K.S.

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