At its quarterly board meeting in London, the Board of Directors of the American Society of Travel Agents (ASTA) approved a final plan for the Society`s new membership structure, to be launched April 1, entitled, “A New ASTA - A New Vision.” The new initiative creates one type of travel agent member - a voting member. Each member will be able to choose to receive benefits as a corporate entity or as an individual, with a different set of programs, benefits and services for each.
The Board also set the dues for those joining as individuals at $225 annually, with an introductory rate of $189 through the end of 2002. The commercial travel agency rate will remain at $365 plus $50 per branch, and agencies will receive two voting memberships.
“At its last Board meeting, ASTA fundamentally altered the structure of the membership to conform to the marketplace and open the Society`s doors to all professional sellers of travel. The membership ratified those changes overwhelmingly,” said Richard M. Copland, CTC, ASTA president and CEO. “Now, we have put the meat on the bone to establish the programs and benefits that will give life to our vision for ASTA`s future.”
“Everything in our industry is changing,” said Copland. “We have to change ourselves to meet the challenges that are out there. We need to marshal our forces to be prepared to respond to and affect change in our industry. There is an army of travel professionals out there seeking a voice, and we need every professional seller of travel to join us in the challenges and successes that lie ahead. We must have unity in our industry to achieve our goals.”
The plan, which was developed after months of meetings by ASTA`s leaders, staff and agent volunteers, allows retail travel sellers to choose one of two different relationships with ASTA. Agency firms will pay $365 plus a fee for branches, receive two voting memberships, and be eligible to take advantage of ASTA`s commercial services. These include business protection, business development and business products. Through 2002, individual members will pay an introductory rate of $189 and will be eligible for all ASTA benefits related to professional enhancement and personal enrichment.
Copland explained, “There are certain benefits that every ASTA member will receive: consumer awareness, government and industry representation, ASTA communications, the lowest rates at all ASTA events…Other benefits will be exclusive to each category. For example, agency members can receive one-on-one consulting with debit memos, GDS issues or bonding problems, while ASTA is exploring new benefits for those joining as individuals,” said Copland.
One new benefit being added for all members as a response to the new membership initiative is ASTA`s Incentive Pack. The ASTA Incentive Pack is an opportunity for ASTA Allied members to promote a special incentive (usually in the form of discounted pricing or bonus commissions) directly to and exclusively for ASTA agency or agent members. Currently, 18 companies are participating in the inaugural issue of the ASTA Incentive Pack. Copland explained, “This product was developed in order to address the needs of travel agents who ranked additional incentive opportunities very high in a list of potential benefits to be offered by ASTA during our market research for the new membership category.”
As part of the plan, the Board also outlined future initiatives to further engage the members in the Society and to increase the level of professionalism and the value proposition for members. The plan includes a greater emphasis on voting and the use electronic voting and polling to obtain meaningful feedback from members on key issues. Such information will be used to develop ASTA`s positions on issues and will give ASTA a stronger mandate in representing the agency community.
The Board also voted to explore a Continuing Education program that would provide incentives to ASTA members who pursue professional education. “ASTA believes travel professionals who continue to enhance their professionalism through education should be recognized for their efforts,” said Copland. “At our next meeting, the Board will consider a program that rewards those who demonstrate their commitment.”
The Board approved a set of initiatives to establish a “sense of family” for ASTA members including regular e-mail messages from chapter presidents and ASTA get-togethers at industry events. Said Copland, “We intend to welcome our new members with open arms and keep the lines of communication open at the local and national level.”
The mission of the American Society of Travel Agents and its affiliate organizations is to enhance the professionalism and profitability of members worldwide through effective representation in industry and government affairs, education and training, and by identifying and meeting the needs of the traveling public. The Society is the world`s largest and most influential travel trade association with over 24,000 members in 140 countries.