From “Agent” to “Advisor": ASTA Embraces Change
Yes, we know we’re behind on covering this. But we swear, it’s not our fault! We’ve been working behind the scenes with ASTA to schedule a webinar for our readers (as well as a special sign up offer!) to make sure we’re all on the same page about what the “new” ASTA has in store for independent contractors (ICs).
If you haven’t heard the news—which is great for us because then we appear to have breaking news—at its 2018 ASTA Global Convention, ASTA formally announced that it changed its title from “American Society of Travel Agents” to American Society of Travel Advisors.
And it’s not just ASTA changing names on us. *gasp!* NACTA is now called “ASTA’s Small Business Network” (ASTA-SBN).
But what do these changes mean for independent travel agents — err independent travel advisors?? As it turns out, more than meets the eye.
HAR chatted with Ann Chamberlain, who runs the small business side of things over at ASTA. She shared information on why ASTA made the change, and how ASTA is changing as an organization to (more) fully embrace the IC advisor business model.
There are sooooooo many titles a home based travel agent can give themselves, Travel: Agent/ Advisor/ Specialist/ Consultant/ Curator/ Expert/ CEO/ President/ Owner . . . and the scroll keeps on rolling! So why advisor?
Well, ASTA didn’t pick out the term “advisor” willy nilly. They landed on their decision after conducting extensive consumer research, asking travelers who they’d want to book trips with. “Advisors” garnered the strongest response from consumers.
The ASTA board unanimously voted to change their name, and here we are today: trying to get used to calling ourselves “advisors” instead of agents.
Going forward, ASTA and ASTA-SBN will operate from a merged advisor membership database. What does this mean? Instead of tracking two separate membership directories, ASTA now only has to keep track of one. Anyone who has ever had two brands to their agency (such as a honeymoon division and a cruise division) can appreciate the beauty of simplifying things (imagine going from managing two CRMs (Customer Relationship Management) to one CRM.
What does the ASTA/ ASTA-SBN merger mean for independent advisors?
The overhaul is more than just keeping up appearances. The changes in ASTA’s name and branding also reflect the industry’s commitment to make sure that independent agents aren’t left out of the travel industry fray . . . and here’s how:
- Lower membership fees: With the formalized relationship between ASTA and ASTA-SBN, independent agents will pay a lower membership fee, paying $199 annually instead of paying two different fees. No more paying double fees, which is great news for ICs looking to support ASTA! Speaking of reduced fees, Host Agency Reviews readers can receive a special membership rate through ASTA!
- More direct support for independent travel advisors: With the restructure, ASTA-SBN membership will be part and parcel of an ASTA membership (and vice versa). What this means for independent agents is that local ASTA-SBN chapters will have a direct line of communication with ASTA HQ. (It’s kind of like having a BDM of your favorite supplier assigned to your area.) This will ensure that ASTA has their ear on the ground to any state-level or local issues that affect travel agents—while still going to bat for travel agents at the federal level with events such as ASTA Legislative Day.
- Centralized outreach and support efforts: Under one roof, Independent agents will be easier to keep track of, quite frankly.
- More engagement options for ASTA/ASTA—BSN members: The merger means that independent agents will have the flexibility to engage with ASTA’s efforts on the local or federal level. So agents can choose if they want to focus on building a localized network of travel agents in order to share resources and build their business, and/or engage in broader-view legislative efforts such as ASTA Legislative Day. The sky’s the limit for independent advisors.
ASTA and ASTA—SBN Roles & New Structure
The roles of ASTA and ASTA-SBN will primarily function as they had been. But maybe you’re asking, exactly what were their roles in the first place? If you’re unclear on their focuses, let us break it down for you.
ASTA will continue to focus on legislative advocacy on behalf of travel advisors on federal and state level, providing action alerts from the ASTA HQ. ASTA will also continue with their consumer advocacy efforts as well. Have you noticed some of great press the travel advisor community has received over the past years? That’s due in part to ASTA’s hard work, going to bat for travel advisors on the Hill.
ASTA-SBN will take NACTA’s reigns, continuing to support networking, community-building, and industry education efforts among independent advisors. Both entities will continue to have their own annual conference back to back, heading to Fort Lauderdale’s The Diplomat Beach Resort next year.
With the merger, NACTA chapters will be unifying with ASTA chapters, providing a direct communication line between ASTA-SBN chapters and ASTA HQ to support advocacy efforts. The new ASTA and ASTA-SBN structure will ensure communication between local ASTA-SBN chapters and ASTA’s federal advocacy efforts. ASTA is currently broken down into 6 regions. Each region is now appointed a regional director who serves as the line of communication between ASTA-SBN chapter presidents and ASTA HQ.
For member advisors who’d like to form a local ASTA-SBN chapter, all they need to do is recruit two other people willing to serve, find eight people to be part of the chapter, and to form a board.