So let me ask all of you travel agents out there, did you recently hire a new PR firm? In the past couple of months, there have been a number of outstanding articles written in the mainstream press about how great you all are, the value that travel agents offer and the fact that you are experiencing some kind of renaissance. Articles have appeared in USA Today, Smart Money, The New York Times, CBS News, and plenty of others (see box below for links to these articles on our web site). You've finally started getting some well-earned credit for all you do for your clients. Well, good for you...it's about time they noticed.
A criticism I've often heard leveled at the travel agent community is that we don't do a very good job communicating to consumers all that you bring to the table. I have to admit that I don't disagree with that critique one bit. We've, as a group, done a very poor job of broadcasting to the world at large all that you do.
Why is that? Real estate agents, for example, have done an amazing job of telling you why you should use a broker to buy or sell your house. They have an organized association (the National Association of Realtors®) that lobbies, promotes and advertises the value they bring. We could have that, too. But in my opinion, our associations are too fragmented, making it difficult to focus the full weight of our industry into a unified voice that says, "Use a travel agent and you will be better off."
We have ASTA, NACTA, CLIA, USTOA...the list goes on and on. Don't get me wrong, they are all valuable and all serve a great purpose, but our inability to speak collectively to the traveling consumer public is leaving you—the travel agent—at a disadvantage as consumers continue to operate under misperceptions and misinformation.
I would suggest that the new American Society of Travel Agents (ASTA) is in the best position now to offer a solution to this problem. Under the leadership of Bill Maloney, and the guidance of past president Kathy Sudeikis and current president Cheryl Hudak, ASTA has reinvented itself and has a lot to offer. They have rebuilt ASTA as a more inclusive, service-oriented organization. There's a place for just about everyone in the new ASTA, from owners of large and established agencies to smaller independents and home-based travel agents.
I encourage you to take a look at the new ASTA (www.astanet.com) to see what it offers to agents. I also encourage ASTA to begin harnessing the voice of its growing membership and communicate.
Kerry J. Cannon, Jr. Group Publisher [email protected] 212-895-8247