ASTA Small Business Network, is unique among travel industry associations. It is a wholly owned subsidiary of ASTA, the American Society of Travel Advisors, a not-for-profit advocacy association representing the travel agent community. The associations are the only two that exist solely for representation of and advocacy for the agent community.
ASTA Small Business Network represents the interests of a diverse group of independent travel consultants. Ann Chamberlin, President, notes, “We move nimbly, but thoughtfully to advance the goals of our members. We constantly look for new benefits for our members, such as the $199 ASTA membership rate, and reduced travel insurance for familiarization and educational trips through its InsureandGo partnership, as well as enhanced commission rate for client sales.”
ASTA Small Business Network has seen continued consolidation of travel agencies, representing fewer agencies and employed advisors, along with continued growth in the independent travel consultant sector. More ICs work virtually than ever before: A new trend is ICs contracting with other ICs to build business, client portfolios and revenue with preferred suppliers. More luxury and niche suppliers rely on travel advisors to sell their products, due to distinctive offerings and sophistication of the sale versus mass market and commodity travel vacations.
More ICs want to network locally with like-minded consultants. As a result, ASTA Small Business Network has grown its chapter system. With the leadership of six regional directors, it has expanded to 52 chapters. “It’s wonderful to see so many members wanting to volunteer their time and serve in the capacity of Chapter Director, helping other travel consultants become more successful through more in-depth networking with one another and suppliers,” said Chamberlin. Via meeting participation, travel consultants learn and stay current on issues that could affect their business.
ASTA Small Business Network advisors support suppliers that support them. ASTA Small Business Network members sell the right supplier products for their client and their business. They advocate on behalf of clients; they aren’t advisors of the supplier. They take pride in membership. “Professionalism in working with suppliers and one another is first and foremost,” Chamberlin notes. “Participation in local chapter meetings and events is critical. Supporting ASTA Small Business Network and ASTA means supporting the industry we deeply care about.”
Independent travel consultants have the freedom to travel, stay educated and conduct meaningful business virtually. Selling travel in an environment catering to the
individual agent lifestyle allows flexibility in the workplace. “We attract more independent travel consultants who advocate for the gift of travel and importance of vacation for the well-being of their customer,” Chamberlin said. “Travel unites. It builds bridges to understanding and accepting differences. It educates minds for an appreciation of humanity, culture and natural beauty through unique destinations and experiences.”
Chamberlin hopes the 100,000 travel advisors in the industry become somehow involved with ASTA Small Business Network—as a host agency or frontline seller of travel, and through membership participation in ASTA. “Both associations work tirelessly to advocate for the well-being of the travel agent community.” And she considers the legacy she
wants to leave to those who’ll one day follow in her footsteps.
“Always work on behalf of the travel consultant—keep their interests at heart. Relationships are at the heart of everything we do: Never under estimate the value of friendships in travel and the power of one-to-one relationships.”
By Amy L Charles