WASHINGTON — ASTA’s ranks have been bolstered to a total of
8,600 members thanks in part to mandatory and subsidized memberships from
consortia and franchises.
ASTA CEO Zane Kerby said during the ASTA Global Convention
here last week that those contributions enabled ASTA to continue doing the work
“Just prior to the convention last year, several consortia
leaders stood up and said, 'ASTA, I have your back,' " Kerby said during the
He singled out the MAST Travel Network, which since 2014 has
paid a portion of ASTA membership dues for its members, an agreement it
expanded into a two-year deal this July; Signature Travel Network, which one
year ago mandated ASTA membership, a decision it renewed in August; The Travel
Leaders Franchise Group, which mandates ASTA membership for franchisees; and
Virtuoso, which reimburses ASTA membership dues, making it free for 85% of its
members to join ASTA.
Kerby hinted there was more to come.
“We are close to another agreement,” he said.
“The ASTA network is growing because of the consortia
support that we are receiving,” Kerby said, noting that the number of Virtuoso
and MAST members in ASTA’s network had roughly doubled, while the Signature
network’s members had tripled.
According to Jennifer Michels, ASTA’s vice president of
communication, deals with consortia have so far resulted in around 230 new
members. And this year U.S. agency membership is up by 100, which equates to
around 600 total agent members.
Higher membership has meant a better turnout at the
society’s annual convention, which this year drew 920 attendees, almost triple what it did last year,
according to Michels.
“This is probably the largest global convention we’ve had in
five, six, seven, 10 years; I can’t even remember when it was this large, and
that’s thrilling,” said ASTA Chair Roger Block, president of Travel Leaders Franchise
Of the 920 attendees, 500 were travel agents, Kerby said, as
well as over 100 exhibitors. He also attributed the boost to the addition of an
educational program with “something for everyone,” whether they are small
agents, luxury or corporate specialists or anyone in between.
“It worked,” he said. “We have more agents this year than we
had attendees all of last year.”
Kerby also touted the convention’s strong international
turnout, with more than 50 countries represented.
The delegation from Kenya included multiple attendees and a
large display at the trade show. John Chirchir, the regional marketing manager
for the Kenya Tourism Board, said it hoped to connect with travel agents
interested in being specialists in East Africa, and Kenya specifically.
In addition to seeing a good turnout at the trade show,
Chirchir was pleased that more than 50 American travel agents attended the
Kenya destination specialist course on Sunday, which featured speaker Ibrahim Mohammed, principal secretary for the Ministry of East African
Affairs, Commerce and Tourism.
Pat Fulton, of the Mesa, Ariz.-based Departures, said she’s
been to more ASTA conventions than she could count. She called this year’s
“fantastic — over the top.”
Fulton attends the conventions for networking and
educational opportunities and hopes they
continue to grow.
“It’s a wonderful professional organization for travel
agents,” she said.
Newcomers were also impressed.
Kristina Mobley, of Ambassador Travel in Evansville, Ind.,
was attending her first ASTA Global Convention on a scholarship from her ASTA
chapter, MidAmerica. Mobley said the size of the convention was indicative of
the industry as a whole right now.
“It’s definitely showing that the travel industry is
growing,” she said.
Correction: The speaker at the Kenya estination specialist course was Ibrahim Mohammed. An earlier version of this report incorrectly stated that Phyllis Jepkosgei Kandie was the speaker.