ew York is a fitting place for this
year's ASTA convention, especially now, and we incline to the view
that ASTA did the right thing.
But ASTA has to do the right thing one more time, and that is,
somehow, to make amends to an entire country. Tourism officials
representing the interests of Spain and Seville have expressed
outrage over ASTA's decision to move the convention to New York.
The Tourist Office of Spain is withdrawing from ASTA and from the
convention and evaluating its legal remedies.
It is a measure of Spain's historic support for travel agents that
it has hosted the ASTA conventions twice before and has been
seeking for the better part of a decade to bring the ASTA
convention to Seville. Not every destination is that accommodating.
Seville was chosen for the 2001 convention after a serious
misunderstanding between ASTA and Spain in 1996, when the Society
chose Los Angeles for the 1998 convention. At the time, Spain and
ASTA had been in discussions for nearly a year, and Spain believed
that it was just a few days away from signing a contract for
Seville. Thus it is no small matter that Seville's aspirations have
been twice thwarted.
We understand that the success of the Seville convention was in
grave doubt because of an alarming number of cancellations by major
participants following the terrorist attacks of Sept. 11. And we
appreciate that ASTA did not make this decision lightly. But no
matter how "right" the decision seems to be, Spain rightly feels
that it was wronged.
ASTA has many tasks before it, including the logistical
challenge of the 11th-hour change in the convention venue, a major
bylaws change, and dealing with a slump in travel that further
threatens its beleaguered constituency.
ASTA must add to this list the healing of wounds inflicted on an
old and valued friend.