Travel agent. Adviser. Consultant. Professional. Specialist. Counselor.
There are a number of descriptors agents use to communicate their job function, but with a recently announced rebranding, ASTA is hoping to create a new industry standard: adviser.
The Society earlier this month announced the second name change in its history — this time to the American Society of Travel Advisors — eschewing its previous name, the American Society of Travel Agents.
(Editor's note: ASTA, like many travel industry-related enterprises, uses the spelling "advisor." Travel Weekly and most other newspapers use the Associated Press spelling, "adviser.")
The National Society of Career Travel Agents (Nacta) will also have a new moniker: the ASTA Small Business Network.
The term "adviser" is more accurate than agent, according to ASTA president and CEO Zane Kerby.
"I think it more accurately reflects what consumers need now, because a lot of the tools that [consumers] have help them to do research," Kerby said. "But information, its reach is so ubiquitous now about all the travel options that what they need is an adviser."
The Society arrived at the term "adviser" after conducting consumer research last year.
According to Travel Weekly's 2017 industry survey, most respondents (33%) described themselves as a travel consultant, followed by travel agent (25%), travel specialist (21%), travel adviser (8%), travel counselor (7%) or something else (6%). Agent networks and individual agents have a variety of different terms they prefer, including "adviser."
I want travel advisers to be thought of in the same class of professionals as others. I want that to become ubiquitous.
But the Society hopes that "adviser" will become the standard in the years to come.
"I think that will happen, and we certainly hope so," said Ann Chamberlin, president of the ASTA Small Business Network.
Along with the rebrand, ASTA will launch an updated TravelSense.org, its online lead-generation site that houses member agents' profiles, with a new, cleaner look and a live chat feature. There will be no leadership changes at the ASTA Small Business Network, though Kerby expects some efficiencies in website management, accounting and staff time.
Additionally, ASTA chapters and what were formerly Nacta chapters will be encouraged to merge where possible, but the Society isn't forcing mergers if they don't make sense geographically or from a focus perspective. For example, an ASTA chapter focused mainly on advocacy might not want to merge with a Nacta chapter that is more focused on supplier education.
Travel adviser' is more descriptive of the relationship between the travel professional and the client.
Though this is the second time the Society's name has changed, its acronym has remained the same since it was founded in 1931. Kerby highlighted the history of the ASTA moniker at a recent webinar with members.
In October 1941, in the midst of World War II, ASTA held what was then its 11th annual convention, in Asheville, N.C., Kerby said. The group's president proposed a name change from the American Steamship and Tourist Agents Association to the American Society of Travel Agents because the number of members dependent on steamship travel for the bulk of their income had declined since ASTA's founding.
The majority of members agreed with the name change, so long as the ASTA acronym remained because consumers recognized it, Kerby said. The change was tabled until the end of the war, when it was adopted.
After the Society announced its most recent change, Kerby said, the response from members was "very, very positive."
Consortia to adopt 'adviser'
Virtuoso already described agents as advisers, and David Kolner, senior vice president of global member partnerships, said the consortium was supportive of ASTA's rebrand.
Travel Leaders Group CEO Ninan Chacko said, "Travel Leaders Group agrees that 'travel adviser' is more descriptive of the relationship between the travel professional and the client and congratulates ASTA on leading the way to highlight the tremendous knowledge, skill and experience of our agency community."
Signature Travel Network, which commonly used the term "travel consultant" in the past, will also transition to using the term "travel adviser."
"I am excited to see this move by ASTA," Signature president and CEO Alex Sharpe said. "The term 'adviser' is a far better representation of our travel professionals, and it's high time we are all on the same page."
Ensemble Travel Group, too, will shift from using "agent" to "adviser," according to Brian Chapin, senior director of air and travel solutions. Chapin was recently elected to ASTA's board of directors.
"Ensemble believes ASTA's move is a positive step, as the term 'adviser' is more aligned with the value proposition of being travel planners and leveraging the experience our members bring to clients," he said.
Kerby said the change will help elevate advisers and their professional image.
"I want travel advisers to be thought of in the same class of professionals as others: tax advisers and financial advisers and travel advisers," Kerby said. "I want that to become ubiquitous."