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This year, ASTA is attempting to change the way the industry meets with a revamped Travel Retailing & Destination Expo (TheTradeShow) in Las Vegas, Sept. 11-13, in addition to its International Destination Expo — held in Lima, Peru, March 1-3, 2012 — and its segmented member meetings.
“We want to show agents that ASTA membership is different than being a member of a consortia,” said Chris Russo, ASTA president. “That is what we are going to reflect at this year’s TheTradeShow.”
In order to up the ante on the education segment of TheTradeShow, ASTA has hired Bruce Tepper, a 20-year industry veteran and noted industry speaker, to redesign the sessions and hire new speakers.
“It will be a lot different than in years past, with new speakers,” said Russo. “Tepper is really going to change it up. He brings a wealth of expertise and experience in developing cutting-edge industry curricula that will provide attendees with ready-to-use skills that they can immediately implement to increase their market share.”
According to Russo, the educational sessions will be a mix of old and new with some first-time presenters that are outside of ASTA.
“There will be a lot of focus on social media,” he said. “We are going to attempt to help agents decipher what is best for their companies.”
Among the interactive sessions, Tepper has developed two technology sessions — “Making Your Mark: Creating Your Own Online Brand to Boost Your Sales” and “Smart Phone...Smarter Travel,” both presented by James Spellos, founder and president of Meeting U, as well as the creator of Way Cool Tools.
“Making Your Mark: Creating Your Own Online Brand to Boost Your Sales” will identify critical sites that impact how agents do business and redefine how they can use them in the future.
“Smart Phone...Smarter Travel” will teach attendees about what smart devices can do for their business.
Anne Scully, a luxury travel advisor and industry expert, will present “Back to the Future for the Luxury Traveler and High Margin Sales.” Travel agents will learn how to build long-term relationships with their clients; negotiate on clients’ behalf; and better understand the needs of luxury-oriented travelers.
Other enhanced features at TheTradeShow include the Hosted Buyers program, which will offer qualified agents complimentary registrations or accommodations from Hilton Hotels, the Bellagio, Starwood Hotels & Resorts, the Aria Hotel and Vdara Hotel, as well as exclusive events such as the Advocacy Dinner and the new Leadership Luncheon.
“All in all, we are excited to have a new program than what we have had in the past. We are excited to be back in Vegas,” said Russo.
There is a lot in store for both TheTradeShow and ASTA’s portfolio of meetings. In 2012, for example, TheTradeShow will find a new home in Los Angeles.
“We want to give back to tourism markets that are out of the tourism norm,” said Tony Gonchar, ASTA CEO.
The dates for the L.A. event are Sept. 7-9, 2012, at the Los Angeles Convention Center. Hotel options include JW Marriott Los Angeles at L.A. Live, Ritz-Carlton, Los Angeles, Westin Bonaventure and Sheraton Los Angeles.
Beyond next year’s show, ASTA will continue to expand its roster to include different destinations for future conferences.