I just finished reading today’s issue of eTurbo News and am writing to express my extreme displeasure with the negative—and frankly, untrue—way in which ASTA is portrayed in your opening letter. Since this affects the perception of ASTA around the world, it is a matter of the highest importance to me.
To lead the edition with the statement “The American Society of Travel Agents (ASTA), as an organization, has not done much for its travel agent members.” does ASTA and its members a gross injustice. Further, to present this as if it were a matter of fact rather than the opinion of a disgruntled few completely ignores the numerous products and actions that ASTA provides its members, from relief from exorbitant fee increases proposed by ARC to the recent suite of financial tools to assist members in benchmarking their businesses.
What’s more, an obvious misstatement in the interview with Kathy Sudeikis was allowed to go to print without clarification or follow-up. The idea that a travel agent would have “their business singled out for some sort of a revenge by ASTA,” is ludicrous. Clearly, what was meant and what the context plainly requires was the idea that travel agents feared the possibility of revenge by ARC, not ASTA.
To list just a few of the things ASTA “hasn’t been doing,” in recent months alone, ASTA:
• Defeated ARC’s proposal to raise annual fees by more than 500 percent over the next few years.
• Fought and won legislative battles that would have harmed travel agents in 10 states including Michigan, Texas, Massachusetts, Montana, Pennsylvania and Florida.
• Opposed anti-trust immunity for airline consolidation as un-competitive.
• Testified on Capitol Hill on a number of issues, including the Transportation Security Administration’s Secure Flight program.
• Fought United’s policy of drafting agencies through ARC bank withdrawals for debit memos.
• Opposed new ARC agreement rules. As a result, some rules have been modified by ARC, to satisfy ASTA’s objection.
• Filed comments in multiple DOT rule-makings, that affect the way travel agents do business and that affect consumers’ demand for air travel.
• Actively opposed Chambers of Commerce and nonprofits across the country from promoting and selling travel for profit while failing to pay unrelated business income taxes.
• Publicly demanded that cruise lines explain increases in the non-commissionable portions of cruise bookings.
• Promoted the use of professional ASTA travel agents so that more than 339 million Americans have either read or heard ASTA’s message promoting the value of using an ASTA travel agent this year.
• Managed the critically acclaimed International Destination Expo–a tremendous opportunity for travel professionals to visit and receive in-depth education on international destinations.
• Managed and partnered in the industry’s largest trade show in North America. THETRADESHOW is an opportunity to meet hundreds of vendors, attend workshops and seminars, and network with other professionals in the travel industry.
• Influenced, through comments and lobbying, the final rules in Secure Flight to—among many others—gain more time for travel agents to comply.
As Kathy noted in her interview, today’s travel retailer no longer views the airlines as their one and only issue. It’s old news. Instead, travel retailers are focusing on building a successful business model, one that is structured for growth but that can adapt to a changing marketplace. ASTA members know this and that’s one of the many reasons they have joined—ASTA provides them the tools and resources to become more efficient and prosperous even in tough economic times. Our Premium category, which includes many of the larger travel management companies, has grown to more than 168 and we’re adding new members all the time.
I would hope, that as a responsible media outlet and a partner of ASTA, you would not only print a retraction but allow me, through an interview similar to that you conducted with Kathy, to enlighten your readers as to ASTA’s many positive accomplishments on behalf of its members and the industry as a whole.
William Maloney is the executive vice president and chief operating officer of ASTA.