ASTA President Reflects on 2009

The past year brought with it its fair share of challenges, but the forecasts for 2010 are a bit brighter, Chris Russo, ASTA's president and chairman said in a year-end review. “As the U.S. economy struggled to shake itself free of an economic recession, the travel agency industry was faced with monumental challenges few of us could have foreseen,” he said.

Russo said the industry found itself under attack, including the wake of the AIG debacle, quickly followed by the H1N1 virus, “which saw many agency phone lines go silent.”

Later in the year, United Airlines struck, Russo said, cutting off travel agents from utilizing its merchant agreements and passing costs and risk onto agents and the traveling public.

“Throughout it all, ASTA was there to provide for and guide our members toward improved economic prosperity," Russo said. "When not on Capitol Hill lobbying on members' behalf, ASTA added to its already robust benefits and education lineup, with tools such as online webinars and our first Virtual Business Summit, geared to helping members create successful agencies and strong brands in a challenging economic climate. ASTA continued to promote agents' value to the traveling public and made its debut on social-networking sites such as Twitter, Facebook and LinkedIn.”

Sun City, South Africa, hosted ASTA's International Destination Expo, and Las Vegas saw agents attending THETRADESHOW to learn about the latest travel products and how to make the most of social networking, Russo noted.

“Forecasts show 2010 to be a bit brighter. Regardless of what transpires, one thing is certain: ASTA will be there to ensure for its members that the industry is a profitable and rewarding place to work,” Russo said.