ASTA has created a committee that will identify and
discuss issues in hotel distribution.
The Hotel Distribution Advisory Committee, made up of 10
travel agency and industry representatives, will meet regularly, ASTA said.
In addition to identifying and discussing issues in the
hotel and lodging sphere, the committee will set priorities for ASTA based on
those issues, and advise about the best way to respond and position ASTA on
developments in the hotel space. The committee will also share knowledge and
stay on top of industry issues.
Mark Meader, ASTA’s vice president of industry affairs,
said the committee will take a “deep dive into several of the top issues that
may be defined by this committee.”
In some initial meetings, the committee has begun to
identify some issues, Meader said: new distribution channels, like apps and
mobile technology, and the implications they may have in hotel distribution;
book-direct marketing campaigns that some hotels are promoting; and a broad
look at education, “whether that’s education to consumers, to other agents, to hotel
The committee might also delve into the impact of
short-term rentals on the hotel industry, Meader added.
The members of the committee are Shaun Balani, CEO of
Travel Time/Travel Leaders, Lancaster, Pa.; Kelly Bergin, president of OASIS,
Boca Raton, Fla.; Marilyn Clark, a travel adviser with Lighthouse Travel,
Huntington Beach, Calif.; Christopher Dane, president of Hickory Global
Partners, Delray Beach, Fla.; Julia Douglas, president of JetSet World Travel,
Chicago, Ill.; Karen Goldberg, managing director of hotels and resorts for
Virtuoso, New York; Toni Lanotte-Day, president of Toni Tours, Levittown, N.Y.;
Ignacio Maza, executive vice president of Signature Travel Network, New York;
Mike Reich, owner and corporate travel specialist at Master Travel and Cruises,
Wellington, Fla.; and Brian Wills, product marketing manager of the Americas,
Carlson Wagonlit Travel, Minneapolis.
The 10-member committee noticeably does not include any
hoteliers, but Meader said their inclusion is an eventual possibility.
“We’re taking it one step at a time, and so our first
step was to pull together a committee of ASTA members who are very experienced
and skilled within the hotel realm,” he said. “In fact, we have discussed with
the committee that over time, and at the right point in time, we may look to
add other representation from the industry like hoteliers themselves.”
Those possible additions would come after the committee
has identified which issues are relevant and deserving of further discussion,
according to Meader.
“By no means have we eliminated, or not thought of, the
inclusion of the representatives of the hotel community,” he said
One of the issues the committee will likely discuss —
book-direct campaigns, in which hotels offer consumers perks like free WiFi for
booking directly — has been in ASTA’s crosshairs recently.
Last year, ASTA entered into discussions with Marriott
over its #itpaystobookdirect campaign, which offered perks to Marriott Rewards
members who booked on the company’s website. A video from the campaign was
removed after those discussions. ASTA said it had offended travel agents.
Other book-direct campaigns were then brought into the
spotlight, including a Hilton Worldwide campaign, causing ASTA to schedule a
meeting with Hilton. The meeting was rescheduled several times but did recently
occur, according to Jennifer Michels, vice president of communications for ASTA.
“Representatives of ASTA and Hilton recently met to
discuss a variety of industry issues of mutual concern,” she said. “ASTA found
the meeting to be productive and we appreciate Hilton’s willingness to engage
us in an ongoing dialogue, which we believe will prove to be fruitful for both