Exclusive: American Tourism Society Expands Support to Agents

The American Tourism Society (ATS) wants to build awareness among travel agents and the industry of the value of travel to key member destinations, including the Baltic, Central and Eastern Europe, the Mediterranean and Russia. Backed by a blue-ribbon board and advisors, New York-based ATS members do over $4 billion annually in transactions and move more than three million travelers a year.

Alex Harris, chairman of General Tours is ATS's founder. The group also has the support of the U.S. Tour Operators Association (USTOA) president Bob Whitley. Key goals include the promotion, and expansion of high quality travel between North America and ATS destination areas.

The ATS also has an exclusive deal with Vacation.com, the 5,100-member agency network. Dave Spinelli, Vacation.com's director of strategic business development, serves on ATS's board as vice president and secretary. Heading ATS's operations is president Phil Otterson. Otterson is executive vice president, Tauck World Discovery. David T. Perry, chairman, Academic Travel Abroad is ATS chairman.

In an interview with Travel Agent, Otterson said that the ATS would work closely with tour operators, destination managers and receptive service operators and national tourist offices to build traffic and awareness. Included in ATS's 2008 plans is an education and training program for travel agents and training for destinations on handling U.S. visitors. "ATS looks at these destinations as 'transformational' vitally important for the industry with strong growth potential for agents and tour operators. For information: http://www.americantourismsociety.org (GD)