As I write this, ASTA’s Travel Retailing & Destination Expo (THETRADESHOW) is just getting under way in Las Vegas. This year, as it always does, ASTA has made some interesting changes to its seminars and general program in an effort to remain relevant to agents.
Regardless of the steps ASTA takes, however, there will be agents and suppliers who cite the organization’s past glory as a sign that today’s ASTA has become weak and outdated. I have always thought it was unfair to hold the current association up to the standards of the past — after all, the industry as a whole has changed in so many ways over the years. Instead of talking about how great the ASTA World Travel Congress was back in (you pick the year), agents should spend more energy engaged in building the kind of association that will be truly meaningful to them today. ASTA can only really change if agents allow it to happen by letting go of the past.
However, I also believe it is detrimental for ASTA to try to compete with its own history. For instance, instead of attempting to be the authority on all issues for all agents — legislative advocacy, education, research, public relations, marketing and more — as perhaps it once was, it may be more practical to focus its efforts on specific issues and agent needs. While this might mean disappointing some agents, in the long run it will win over others who recognize that ASTA still plays a vital role in the industry. Fortunately, the organization is made up of dedicated, smart and creative members and staff that can help it make this transition.
Just as other businesses have to evolve and occasionally let go of what brought them success in the past, ASTA has to have the courage to periodically wipe the slate clean and ask itself, “If we were starting from scratch, is this the way we would do things?” Then it’s the agents’ job to support the organization and help guide these changes in order to build a better ASTA for all of us.