|Photo by Freeimages.com/Craig Toocheck|
The American Society of Travel Agents honored Jay Ellenby and Jackie Friedman for their work to advocate on behalf of the travel agency community at the 2015 ASTA Global Convention in Washington, D.C.
The Barbara O'Hara Advocacy Award was given jointly by ASTA and the Travel Technology Association and presented by Travel Tech President Steve Shur to Jay Ellenby, president and CEO of Safe Harbors Travel Group in Bel Air, MD. Ellenby, who serves on the ASTA Board of Directors and who was elected vice chair and secretary of the Association by his fellow board members the day before, was recognized for his role in the fight over Maryland legislation that would apply the state's sales tax to travel agency hotel booking fees. Delegate Kathy Szeliga (R-6th District), a key ally in the fight and Jay's representative in Annapolis, was present at the awards ceremony during the black-tie Advocacy Dinner, held at the historic Marriott Mayflower Hotel.
The second winner was Jackie Friedman, president of Nexion LLC in Irving, Texas, and a member of ASTA's Board of Directors and Education Committee. Friedman was recognized for her longtime support for ASTAPAC, the Society's political action committee, and participation in ASTA's political and legislative activities. She also was commended for championing the Travel Leaders of Tomorrow program, which seeks to address a key challenge for the travel agency industry – where and how to find the industry's next generation of leaders.
Awards were also given to two of ASTA's local chapters in recognition of their support for ASTAPAC and grassroots advocacy campaigns. ASTA's Midwest Chapter won the 2015 Chapter Advocacy Award for the third year in a row on the strength of its PAC fundraising (raising over $32,000 through August with a 96 percent chapter participation rate) and for fighting an Illinois proposal to apply the state's sales tax to travel agency income. ASTA's Mid America Chapter won the Chapter Advocacy Silver Star Award for its successful fight against bills to apply sales and hotel taxes on Ohio travel agency fees, as well as exemplary PAC fundraising (raising $72 per member on average with a 50 percent chapter participation rate).
Finally, ASTA paid tribute to Paul Ruden, ASTA's executive vice president, legal and industry affairs, who is retiring at the end of September after more than 25 years on the ASTA staff. Highlights included a video montage of government and industry luminaries who have worked with Ruden over the years, as well as the presentation of a flag flown over the U.S. Capitol in his honor by Bruce Charendoff, Sabre SVP government and external affairs. ASTA President and CEO Zane Kerby presented Ruden, an avid Washington Nationals fan, a custom-made "Ruden" Nats jersey.