STA members have voted to remake the travel industry's largest retail trade association.

By approving a major bylaws change, ASTA's members agreed to open up the membership and admit qualified individual agents and independent contractors as full voting members, whether they work for a member agency or not.

Since its inception, ASTA has represented the owners and managers of traditional brick-and-mortar travel agencies, so this is a big step. And while only about a third of ASTA members voted, they voted overwhelmingly for a radical change. We think that willingness to embrace change bodes well.

We applaud this outcome. It should be good for ASTA and for its members, new and old.

Tourism policy

f you've never heard of the Tourism Policy Council, don't fret. It's an entity that isn't often in the news. In government-speak, it's an interagency policy coordinating committee. It's purpose is to bring together senior officials from various federal departments dealing with tax, transport, immigration, employment, economic development, etc., so they can coordinate their activities that affect tourism and help each other avoid policies that can inhibit tourism.

The sad story of the Tourism Policy Council is that we wouldn't need one if we had a cabinet-level tourism position in the government. Sadder still is that the Tourism Policy Council has not met since 1997, and it took the events of Sept. 11 to motivate Commerce Secretary Don Evans to convene a meeting of a body that had no business going dormant in the first place.

Still, it's a good thing that the group is coming together again. Let's hope it stays together.

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