he ASTA congress wrapped up last week
in New York. It offered features like those included on programs at
congresses past. Also, as with previous years, there really were
several conventions under way simultaneously.
Which one or two of those different congresses you experience
depends on what you aim to accomplish at the congress and the sorts
of business entities or events you seek out.
For the press, there is the public convention -- speeches,
seminars and the like -- and there is the congress that is a string
of media events.
As a result, our coverage of an ASTA congress doesn't precisely
reflect what any given delegate experiences.
Through the device of a press event, suppliers or other
interests or even ASTA can relay information to the trade that
there may not be time or an appropriate place for on the regular
This year, media events included at least three that focused on
factors that have become bigger issues with customers recently:
security, insurance and health.
• Several biometrics experts demonstrated hand-geometry,
facial-recognition and fingerprint aviation security technologies.
These capabilities have been deployed in selected places.
The message from the event, cosponsored by ASTA and IATA, was
that the tools already exist for making our airways much safer, but
the issue is ensuring that the investment is made to bring airport
security to the levels we need.
• Travel Guard discussed "the current state of travel
insurance." Its chief executive, John Noel, is worried that
travelers may lose access to insurance that covers for supplier
failure. Several other insurers have ceased providing this
coverage, and the remaining insurers may not find it practical to
carry the risk alone, he said.
Meanwhile, Travel Guard said, the portion of leisure clients
buying insurance has shot up since Sept. 11, from about 8% to
anywhere from 35% to 50%.
• ASTA and Pharmacia Corp. sponsored a briefing on travel
health, featuring Dr. Michael Cohen, a psychologist and member of
New York Mayor Rudy Giuliani's crisis response team, and Dr.
Bradley Connor, a frequent contributor to Travel Weekly.
You are going to like their message. Yes, stress is keeping
people from travel now, but both men predicted the American public
will resume travel over the holidays because of the importance of
family gatherings, especially this year. Setting aside economic
issues, Dr. Cohen said travel is "critical" to America's mental
In other words, it is what the doctor ordered, and you can quote