In an effort to better advance its mission and advocate for the travel agency community before the traveling public, the American Society of Travel Agents (ASTA) has announced the creation of a Consumer Awareness Committee made up of industry representatives with particular expertise in marketing, social media and building consumer awareness.
“Raising consumer awareness regarding the value of using a travel agent is a critical part of ASTA’s mission,” said Zane Kerby, ASTA president and CEO, in a written release. “While we have substantially ramped up our consumer awareness activities over the past year, creating two consumer-facing videos, making upgrades to TravelSense.org, our consumer-facing website, we have only begun to scratch the surface. We appreciate our volunteer committee members stepping forward to invest their time, energy and expertise as they help us chart the best path forward in 2017 and beyond.”
The objectives of the Consumer Awareness Committee include: providing guidance for ASTA’s diverse consumer awareness initiatives; assisting ASTA in understanding the implications of emerging technologies and media with the potential for raising agents’ public profile; aiding in the development of an industry-wide, sustained and coordinated travel agency consumer awareness campaign; and providing an opportunity for members to share best practices and otherwise stay abreast of industry marketing activities.
The committee’s launch comes in the midst of a resurgence in consumer travel agent usage. A 2016 independent consumer research project commissioned by ASTA showed that U.S.-based consumers more and more are embracing the expertise that only a trusted travel agent provides in planning and booking travel. According to the study, 22 percent of consumers booked through a travel agent, the highest share reported in the past three years, with Millennials leading the pack in both travel agent usage (30%) and likelihood to recommend their agents to friends and family (45%). The study also found that agents are saving consumers on average over $300 per trip, as well as three hours of planning time.
ASTA’s Consumer Awareness Committee is comprised of the following individuals:
- Misty Ewing Belles, Managing Director, Global Public Relations, Virtuoso, Washington DC
- Carolyn Cauceglia, Vice President, Strategic Sales, Amadeus North America Inc., Miami FL
- Brian Chapin, Senior Director, Air & Travel Solutions, Ensemble Travel Group, Chicago IL
- Karryn Christopher, Senior Vice President, Sales & Marketing, Signature Travel Network, Los Angeles CA
- Jay Ellenby, President, Safe Harbors Business Travel, Bel Air MD and Chair, ASTA Board of Directors
- Jackie Friedman, President, Nexion LLC, Irving TX
- Betsy Geiser, Vice President, Uniglobe Travel Center, Irvine CA and Member, ASTA Board of Directors
- Ron Gulaskey, Associate Vice President, National and Strategic Accounts – North America, Celebrity Cruises, Miami FL
- Brian Hegarty, Vice President, Marketing, Travel Leaders Network, Plymouth MN
- Scott Koepf, Senior Vice President, Sales, Avoya Travel, San Diego CA and Member, ASTA Board of Directors
- Jenn Lee, Vice President, Sales & Marketing, Travel Planners International, Maitland FL
- Sharon Poulos, Director of Marketing – Americas, Travelport, Atlanta GA
- Chris Seddelmeyer, Seddelmeyer Travel Concepts and Member, ASTA Board of Directors
The new Consumer Awareness Committee convened for the first time in November 2016, and will continue to meet on a regular basis to plan for 2017 initiatives.