From its organizational meeting in New York in 1931 through stops in such diverse locales as French Lick, Ind. (1947), Athens (1967), Singapore (1986) and Los Angeles last year, seldom if ever in its 68 previous convocations has ASTA confronted tougher challenges than those facing delegates to its World Travel Congress assembling in Strasbourg, France, starting Sunday.

To be sure, retailers -- ASTA members and not -- are being buffeted by another round of punishing commission cuts that, together with Internet-based invitations to self-booking, bargains and bypass, constitutes a direct attack on the traditional travel agency distribution system.

Poised precariously, then, on the cusp of a new millennium at once imbued with boundless promise and fraught with peril, the retail community looks to its leaders for unity, resourcefulness and, yes, courage in this time of adversity.

Is the pressure on ASTA to produce? Without question, but such is the burden of leadership earned through decades of successful trade advocacy.

There's a lot on the line in Strasbourg, and we wish the Society well in its endeavors there.

Day of Awareness

Travel agents nationwide can share in the pride of ASTA's Rocky Mountain chapter, which staged a 90-minute Day of Awareness demonstration on the steps of the capitol building in Denver.

While it was hardly a "million-agent march," the rally attracted about 500 retailers and a smattering of clients, a pretty good turnout under the circumstances.

Best of all, media coverage was said to be extensive, which means attention was drawn to the commission cuts and to the value of agents to consumers.

If this kind of rally worked in Denver, why not elsewhere?

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