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NACTA Launches New Independent Agent ResourcesMarch 3, 2009 By: George Dooley
The launch of a dynamic new website by the National Association of Career Travel Agents (NACTA) is the latest move to transform NACTA into an innovative powerhouse for professional agents, host agencies and industry suppliers.
Led by Scott Koepf, president, NACTA’s new website is the latest in a series of
innovations that include the group's 2008 rebranding with a new name, logo, positioning and content-rich programs focused on serving the professional travel agent.
NACTA president Scott Koepf
“Our mission is to serve the career agent—hosted or non-hosted—in all their diversity and to focus on helping them support their professionalism. This includes offering a constructive network of career-minded professionals linked online at www.nacta.com and offline with our 25 chapters and unique Mastermind group program,” Koepf said.
Koepf wants to expand NACTA’s 25 chapters and its membership with serious travel agents who want quality support and encouragement from a solid organization that reflects the brightest and the best in the industry. Last year's name change from "Commissioned" to "Career" travel agents underscores this.
With 2,500-plus member agents and a high renewal rate, the "new" NACTA wants to be a primary and preferred association for career agents. The new website emphasizes this with a public site and password-protected members only site. Koepf sees the new agent-only site as a central gateway for agents to tap into all of NACTA’s resources.
From fam trips, seminars at sea, webinars and special events, the new site ties together the complete NACTA program. This includes a useful online calendar. Koepf envisions NACTA’s site as a practical tool that can be used daily by NACTA members. Sections are devoted to agents' needs and the resources and products of 70 host agencies and 60 suppliers who participate and support NACTA.
One of NACTA’s innovations is its Mastermind program. This allows small groups of four to eight agents to link up for training, networking and mutual interactive support in operations, sales, marketing and decision-making. Koepf envisions a nationwide network of Mastermind groups linking agents to other agents and helping each other to achieve goals. The Mastermind program is just starting up.
As with NACTA Chapters, Koepf is seeking out Mastermind leaders around whom groups can be found. “Mastermind has the potential to end the isolation of independent agents and help build productive supplier relations and to complement our Chapter networks.” Mastermind will have separate webinars starting in April.
Another initiative is NACTA's regional meetings scheduled in California and New York City in June including a joint program with the National Tour Association (NTA) June 4–6. The NTA linked program and the New York program sponsored by tour operator NYCVP, are the first of NACTA’s "destinationals," a strong destination familiarization capability that will expose NACTA agents to popular US. destinations to spark sales. Strong supplier participation is expected.
“We are going to make it easier and affordable for suppliers to reach out and communicate with independent agents," said Koepf. "At the same time, we are going to provide our members with access to quality supplier programs.” Also planned is a national conference November 20-24.
Koepf believes that NACTA is positioned to help many agents regardless of business models. This includes independent contractors, outside sales agents, cruise- and tour-oriented agents, group- oriented travel professionals and traditional ARC-appointed travel agencies that provide services and support to such professionals. NACTA itself was established in 1986 and is an affiliate of ASTA. Koepf, a 25-year industry veteran and CTC, took over as president last year. Mary Clegg is director of industry relations.
NACTA’s program runs the gamut of services from a personalized member ID card and lapel pin to access to NACTA’s Seminars at Sea, host and supplier webinars, the popular NACTA AgentDigest, special pricing and discounts including Travel Insured and access to CLIA and ASTA programs.
NACTA’s Mastermind program reflects the ongoing changes in education and training in the past decade and will combine the best of personalized hands-on instruction to complement the association's other training and webinars. Koepf stresses that Mastermind will feature strong content and relevant subject matter, interactive discussion, feedback and accountability.
Koepf’s goal is to make NACTA members the beneficiaries of the finest learning experience available and to be a true support group that helps agents build their businesses and professional skills. NACTA annual dues are $145. Strong interaction between NACTA members and especially its Chapter and Mastermind participants also creates a powerful network that can share challenges and opportunities.
NACTA is for travel agents serious about their careers and who can see beyond the current economic downturn to long-term professional growth and opportunities, Koepf believes. “NACTA membership rewards agents who make a true commitment of time and talent, a commitment to sharing ideas and experience and a commitment to professional growth,” he said.