Despite debate over what the total number of home-based agents is and struggles to define what exactly a home-based travel agent is, it’s clear that the travel agency distribution channel has been changed by the emergence of the self-employed, entrepreneurial agent working from home.
Scott Koepf, new president of the National Association of Commissioned Travel Agents.
Home-based travel agents—many stress independent agents—are transforming how travel is sold (i.e., the interaction between the traveler, agent and supplier). They are bringing new vitality to the industry, especially leisure travel sales.
At the core of this new reality is Scott Koepf, newly named president of the National Association of Commissioned Travel Agents (NACTA) and a leader who is not afraid to confront the challenges that independent home-based agents face.
Koepf, former vice president of strategic business for Sabre Holdings, was named the new president of NACTA effective April 1. He replaces Joanie Ogg, NACTA’s respected founder, who has joined Travel Counsellors, a major host agency.
"Scott was the ideal candidate to take over NACTA's operations. His experience in all aspects of the industry and his commitment to travel agents will be an asset to NACTA as it moves forward," said Bill Maloney, ASTA’s executive vice president and COO, when announcing Koepf’s appointment.
Noting that NACTA is an affiliate of ASTA, representing independent contractors, outside agents and supporting groups, Maloney said that ASTA is committed to expanding NACTA and the many benefits members receive. “In hiring Scott, we are hiring a strong leader who can take the association to the next level of growth and profitability," Maloney said.
Koepf has a long association with travel agents. Prior to joining Sabre Holdings, Koepf served as general manager for both Nexion, a host travel agency with more than $200 million in annual sales, and Jurni, a travel agency consortium. Koepf was president and owner of Ultimate Seminars and was earlier affiliated with Cruise Holidays, a major franchise group.
"I see my new role as NACTA president to defend and support the home-based agents’ position and needs within the industry,” he says. “NACTA is the industry leader because of commitment. I plan to continue where Joanie Ogg left off, and make sure NACTA is not only the best association for home-based agents, but one that helps agents in multiple ways to become more successful in this business.”
Koepf also sees opportunities to expand NACTA’s membership base and to increase NACTA’s value to member agents. He expects more chapters to be formed and wants to ensure high-quality programs for them. He also expects to reach out to other associations, such as the Professional Association of Travel Hosts (PATH), and to partner with suppliers and agency groups.
He also invites agents to explore all the resources that NACTA offers—including bringing professional education and training to the agent. A new Power Up program sponsored by Royal Caribbean, Celebrity Cruises, Azamara Cruises and the Globus Family of Brands, is noteworthy. NACTA’s homepage (www.nacta.com) provides a huge list of NACTA’s resources, including business-building programs.
While early in his tenure, Koepf wants to increase the sense of community among NACTA member agents and encourage networking, communications and interaction among agents. “Our focus will be on agents’ needs—whether full or part time, hosted or not, independent or not, experienced or beginners. NACTA will deliver value with high integrity and affordable programs,” he says.