Today the 2018 ASTA Global Convention wraps up in Washington, DC. You may not be all that familiar with ASTA, but you should be! ASTA is now the American Society of Travel Advisors, having replaced “Agents” with “Advisors” to better reflect the consultative role of today’s travel professional. But ASTA has been around since 1931 serving as the voice of the travel industry. 

A key part of what ASTA does is to advocate for you with both federal and state legislators. Most of us don’t keep up with all the laws that are proposed that affect the travel industry, because we are too busy working in the travel industry. But you don’t have to because ASTA does it for you! 

Here is an example: ASTA was able to get travel agencies removed from a US Department of Labor blacklist that would have resulted in massive layoffs in the travel industry, and are continuing to fight rules that would make being an independent contractor very difficult.

At the state level ASTA successfully opposed proposals in three states that would have required travel agents to pay sales taxes. That would have been a great burden on thousands of agents – especially agents who are independent contractors.

In addition to all these advocacy efforts in government, ASTA has adopted a more aggressive approach to creating an awareness of what travel advisors do. Their TravelSense.org website receives thousands of visitors per month looking for skilled agent. They promote the value of booking with an agent through public relations campaigns that have resulted in dozens of articles in consumer publications like the New York Times, Forbes, and others. 

And their new Verified Travel Advisor (VTA) certification program was created to ensure travel advisors have the well-rounded knowledge they need to succeed in travel. Courses include Ethics for Travel Advisors, Legal Overview of the Travel Agency Industry, Project Management, Advanced Public Speaking, and Marketing. You can learn more by visiting www.ASTA.org/VTA.

The bottom line is that ASTA is a critical asset to our industry and does admittedly unglamorous – but important – work. No, you don’t get any kind of ID card that gets you FAMs or discounts when you join. But you do get an organization dedicated to protecting your ability to do the job you love. I encourage you to get to know ASTA. Join if you can, contribute to their lobbying efforts through ASTA PAC (Political Action Committee) or visit your local ASTA chapter (www.ASTA.org/chapters). The industry we love wouldn’t be the same without ASTA and I encourage you to support their efforts.