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USTOA is turning 40 and rather than heading over the hill, the organization is sprucing things up with social media campaigns, a new logo and increased involvement on Capitol Hill.
“I could not be more excited about the kind of engagement this year has generated among our members,” said Terry Dale, president of USTOA.
Dale dubbed this year the “Year of Engagement” for USTOA, and the organization has certainly stepped things up over the last few months with the goal of engaging members on a more frequent basis.
“Historically, interaction between members was limited to our three-day conference,” said Dale. “Then, everything went dormant until the following conference. We were lacking a regular conversation, which is something that our members craved.”
One of the ways in which USTOA is furthering member interaction is with its Business After Hours programs where members have a chance to meet face to face and discuss their priorities. So far, events in Los Angeles and New York City have seen approximately 300 participants.
USTOA has also undergone a brand audit in partnership with Myriad Marketing. The organization sensed that there was a lack of connection between members and the USTOA logo. There was also a need to establish a clearer distinction for consumers and the travel agent community between Associate Membership and Active Membership.
“We came up with a design that is more modern, current and contemporary but, at the same time, it’s classic — reflecting the association’s history,” said Dale. “The new logo will help us define for the travel agent community who is covered under the assistance program and who is an associate member and not covered.”
In addition, Dale hopes that the new logos will provide consumers with better brand identity.
Dale also noted that USTOA is moving forward with a new consumer advocacy program and has held its first congressional caucus. More than 50 active and associate members gathered at the JW Marriot Washington, DC to create a unified industry voice, learn about government issues that affect the travel industry and meet with elected officials on Capitol Hill.
“We visited D.C. to introduce ourselves,” said Dale. “Member response was extraordinarily positive, so this will become an annual event.”
Opening remarks from Roger Dow, CEO and president of U.S. Travel Association, addressed the JOLT (Jobs Originated through Launching Travel) Act, introduced by Senator Chuck Schumer (D-NY), JOLT would implement a system of reforms to streamline and enhance current travel regulations into the U.S. from foreign countries.
Members also heard from Samuel Podberesky, assistant general counsel for Aviation Enforcement and Proceedings at the U.S. Department of Transportation (DOT), who provided an update on proposed rulemaking regarding website accessibility to be released later this year. Additionally, members were briefed on travel to Cuba and participated in a roundtable discussion with major airline carriers.
Furthering its commitment to engage its members, USTOA has recently completed its first Facebook sweepstakes and is committed to further engaging in social media outlets in the coming months.
“The idea was to reach out to consumers to show them who we are,” said Dale. “Our advertising budget isn’t going to get us advertising on big network television shows but, with social media, we can effectively reach out to more consumers.”
The 40th annual sweepstakes through Facebook, called “Around the World with USTOA,” generated more than 5,000 page “likes” for the organization.
“We increased our consumer likes by 900 percent,” said Dale. “We are now going to continue to engage in these types of grassroots initiatives that allow us to talk about who we are and what we do in an affordable way.”
The four-week contest featured $40,000 in vacation giveaways from active members Pacific Delight Tours, Go Ahead Tours, Collette Vacations and Globus.
Going forward, Dale has plans to engage consumers and members in a meaningful — and social — way.