Agents praise ASTA convention at sea

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ASTA convention 1ABOARD NORWEGIAN BREAKAWAY — A mix of first-time attendees and ASTA veterans reacted positively to the ASTA Global Convention, being held here this week.

Some first-timers attended the show because they’d been encouraged to do so by friends or colleagues. Marlene Follick of ProTravel in Harrison, N.Y., was one of them. Follick said she was enjoying the opportunity to network.

Bobbie Murphy, owner of Active Travel Pro of Cincinnati, was another first-time attendee, and was enjoying herself.

“I always love hearing Peter Greenberg,” she said, referring to the CBS News travel editor who spoke at the opening session and hosted several panels. “And I always love seeing Andy,” she said, referring to Andy Stuart, vice president of global sales and passenger services for Norwegian Cruise Line. “He always gives me the feeling of the industry being respected, and I need that reassurance.”

She had attended two seminars, one about using personal photos and videos for marketing and a seminar about multigenerational marketing conducted by motivational speaker Nolan Burris of Future Proof Travel Solutions. “I did the one with Nolan Burris just because he’s Nolan Burris,” she said.

Linda Stockwell and Amanda Hertzberg, both from Resort Parks International, also were attending their first ASTA show. Resorts Parks International originally booked stays at campgrounds, then added timeshares and is now adding cruises. Stockwell has been on several cruises; this cruise is Hertzberg’s first. They’re attending ASTA in order to learn about more ways to expand their product line.

Mo Celli of MoGo Travel in Simsbury, Conn., said that having the event on the Breakaway was a plus for her. “I’ve never been on NCL, so this is an opportunity,” she said.

Patti Cobbs and Marilyn Ryback, both with Dupont Plaza Travel Services, said they’d each been to approximately 25 ASTA shows. Ryback was nostalgic for the ASTA shows of a generation earlier, which attracted thousands and were spectacles with extravagant supplier booths.

Both noted that they were seeing fewer “old-timers” at this show and more new faces.

“We’re seeing new people coming in,” said Cobbs, who was pleased at the development. “It means young people are interested in our industry.”

Several agents pointed out that while workshops were scattered about the ship, ASTA was doing a good job of managing flow and helping agents get to the right session.

Monday afternoon’s trade show was busy, with agents crowding around supplier tables.

Monique Peragine, business development coordinator for Travel Planners International of Maitland, Fla.,, called the trade show “amazing.”

“They’re making it short and sweet,” she said. “It’s great because it’s fast. Agents are loving it.”

Claudia Darling of Darling Travel in Carmel, Ind., also praised the show. “Lots of vendors, lots of agents,” said Darling, who also is president of ASTA Mid-America. “A new and improved ASTA.”

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