The American Society of Travel Agents (ASTA) has presented Chris Austin, vice president of global customer partnerships/leisure and luxury sales for Starwood Hotels & Resorts Worldwide, Inc., with the Allied Member of the Year Award. ASTA recognized Austin for his outstanding contributions to the travel industry, which have positively impacted the travel agency community.
“Chris has devoted his career to the travel industry and his success is a testament to his insight and understanding of what drives the industry,” said ASTA President and CEO Cheryl Hudak, CTC. “Over the years, he has proven himself to be a loyal friend and supporter of ASTA and the entire travel agency community. I can think of no one more deserving of this award than he.”
In 1986, Austin joined ITT Sheraton Corporation as a sales executive at the Sheraton Skyline Hotel, London Heathrow Airport and was soon promoted to assistant manager for banqueting and convention services. From there, he rose to banqueting manager, overseeing Sheraton’s largest meeting facilities in the UK. In April 1990, he moved back into sales from hotel operations, assuming the position of account director in the London national sales office for Sheraton. During that time, Austin was responsible for developing the largest accounts, including American Express and a number of key UK tour operators.
Austin transferred to the U.S. in 1994, assuming the position of account director of leisure sales and was soon promoted to director of leisure sales for North America. During the next four years, revenues increased substantially as ITT Sheraton acquired Ciga hotels in Europe, gaining a strong luxury hotel footprint and allowing Austin and his team to develop additional revenue-enhancing opportunities worldwide.
In 1998, he was promoted to vice president of global leisure sales for Starwood Hotels & Resorts, where he was responsible for developing leisure business to all of Starwood’s six brands, and for growing on a strategic level the relationships with the largest tour operators, wholesalers, inbound receptive operators, cruise lines, retail travel agents and private member channels such as AAA. Seven years later, he was promoted to vice president of global customer partnerships/leisure and luxury sales. In this newly created position, he is a member of Starwood’s worldwide sales leadership team and is responsible for driving more meaningful and deeper partnerships with Starwood’s top customers globally. He is responsible for the luxury sales strategy for the global sales office at Starwood and for leading the retail travel channel strategy.
Austin has been the driving force behind StarwoodPRO, a new solution dedicated to the travel professional community, which launched its first phase in late 2007. The tagline, “You're a pro, you should work with one too,” reflects the company's commitment to the travel professional community. StarwoodPro establishes a sophisticated, user-friendly interface between Starwood and travel professionals including a robust search and booking engine, complete brand information and access to Starpicks (the lowest Internet rates available from Starwood). Launching this month will be new features including ProLearning (an interactive learning and development tool for travel professionals) and StarCom (a new commission payment and reconciliation system).
Active in industry affairs, Austin sits on the boards of Travel Industry Association, ASTA’s Allied Marketing Council and the Association of Travel Marketing Executives, and takes a leadership role with the U.S. Tour Operators Association. He has been recognized by Travel Agent as one of the industry’s shining stars and previously won the ITT Sheraton President's Award and Starwood's Sales Award of the year.