SAN FRANCISCO -- ASTA is celebrating both record membership numbers and funds raised. The proceeds from dues and fundraising will be funneled into its all-important advocacy efforts on Capitol Hill as well as services for its growing membership.
During its annual Global Convention here in August, the Society reported it is well on its way to its goal of 20,000 members by 2025, with 17,000 on the books today. And it raised nearly $380,000 during the convention alone.
"It was an astonishing evening," ASTA CEO Zane Kerby said of the Society's Advocacy Gala at the convention, when Royal Caribbean Group, Carnival Corp. and Norwegian Cruise Line Holdings pledged $100,000 each. "The three major cruise brands really stepped up and showed their support and their confidence in the travel advisor community."
Those funds will help sustain ASTA's ongoing advocacy efforts. They will also help the Society advocate for its top priorities moving forward: protecting travel advisors from being liable for air ticket refunds when they themselves don't hold the funds and the reinstating of the Employee Retention Tax Credit.
ASTA maintains two full-time lobbyists on its staff, executive vice president of advocacy Eben Peck and vice president of advocacy Jessica Klement, as well as several staff members who assist with lobbying efforts. The Society also employs an outside firm that helps arrange meetings with legislators for ASTA's annual congressional fly-in, Legislative Day, and identifies key leaders for ASTA to connect with, like committee heads.
"The advocacy department at ASTA is the largest department we have by both expertise and in terms of financial obligation," Kerby said. "Those funds go a long way in helping us cover both … inside lobbying costs as well as outside lobbying costs that are really important to the success of our efforts."
The funds donated by individuals, some $80,000 from the global convention this year, can go directly to legislative candidates, Kerby said. That helps develop champions for the travel agency community in Washington.
While membership dues help fund ASTA's operations, a larger membership base gives the Society more clout in Washington when advocating. Kerby called ASTA's members an "extremely active" group.
"The real organizational heft that comes with having more members can't be overstated," he said.