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One-on-One With Former ASTA President Chris RussoDecember 7, 2011 By: Joe Pike
|Author Joe Pike wth Chris Russo, Travel Insured International's new national account manager|
During our exclusive coverage of the 13th annual Luxury Travel Expo at Mandalay Bay Resort and Casino, Travel Agent sat down with Chris Russo, Travel Insured International's new national account manager.
Travel Insured International, a leader in the travel insurance industry since 1994, announced that Russo, who led ASTA, formerly the American Society of Travel Agents, as president and CEO from 2008 until September 2011, will begin his new position on December 19.
"My immediate goal is to help the company with its continued success and to add to that success," Russo told Travel Agent. "I was looking for something new, they were looking for something new and our paths just happened to cross at the right time for both of us."
Russo, who will report to Travel Insured Director of Sales and Industry Relations Isaac Cymrot, will be based in Denver, where he began his 22-year career in the retail travel industry. Russo takes on industrywide responsibilities for national accounts in his new position.
"We've had a close relationship with Chris prior to this," Cymrot says. "He was well aware of our company as he has used our insurance when he had his own agency. Chris' reputation and background will prove to be a great addition for our company."
And the timing couldn't be better. Cymrot says Travel Insured has seen a 25-percent increase from 2010 to 2011.
"I think with everything we've seen in recent years from volcanoes and snow storms to civil unrest in certain countries, customers are more in tune for the need for travel insurance," says Cymrot. "And that only mean higher sales and greater revenue for travel agents."
"I don't even know if its just the last year; its been continuous," Russo says of incidents that create the need for insurance. "We need to do a better job of getting the agents to get their clients covered. It's one of those things where people always said, 'I wont need that," or 'That wont happen to me,' but now we are seeing hundreds of things from snow storms to the ash clouds in Europe that are really creating a further need for insurance."
Russo was elected ASTA President in September 2008, and his tenure was extended by the ASTA board to a second, one-year term as president and interim CEO prior to the appointment of current ASTA CEO Tony Gonchar. Russo was succeeded by current ASTA President Nina Meyer in September of this year.
Russo started as a retail travel agent and worked for 12 years before buying the agency Travel Partners in the Denver suburb of Broomfield, CO, in 2000.
Russo said he was attracted to Travel Insured International both by the rewarding professional relationships he has formed with the sales team over many years as one of its travel industry partners, and by a recent visit to Travel Insured's Connecticut headquarters.
"What really attracted me was when I saw the enthusiasm and energy at Travel Insured's offices, and how long so many people have been there," Russo says. "I saw that it is a good company to work for."