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NACTA New England Chapter Co-Directors

For NACTA New England Chapter Co-Directors Araceli “Arcel” Talusan and Ruth Rudnick, the travel passion runs deep.

Arcel always found travel a wonderful way to learn about people and the world. She and her family often spent vacations driving around the historic United States; eventually, they went international. Putting trips together fueled a passion for providing such opportunities for others, and when her children went off to college, Arcel turned her travel-planning hobby into a vibrant career.

Ruth has been in the travel industry since 1977. At fourteen, she was enrolled in a student exchange program, living with a French family in Cannes. In high school she organized a senior trip to Spain. After graduating college she worked in the office for public service, yet her earlier experiences fueled that passion for people and cultures around the world—and fueled her desire to build a successful travel business.

Arcel and Ruth also share a passion for NACTA, and for providing their chapter with the best possible support. The New England Chapter, born of the former Boston Chapter, now covers a broader area—Maine, Massachusetts, New Hampshire, Rhode Island, and Vermont. (Connecticut has its own chapter.) Members maintain contact via chapter meetings, supplier webinars, e-mail, and social media. “This outreach helps us to promote NACTA while expanding our network,” said Arcel. “To re-engage past members, we make personal calls to those with expired memberships and ask how NACTA can work to meet their needs and what kind of support we can offer.”

To encourage new members, New England Chapter meetings are open to nonmember travel professionals. Another encouragement effort stems from listening to what members want to know and learn. “Last year, we had a meeting that brought thirty-plus vendors, fifty-plus members and nonmembers, and NACTA President Ann van Leeuwen and ASTA President and CEO Zane Kerby to New England,” said Ruth. “That evening, new members joined. They saw the value in the NACTA relationship with ASTA and the vendors, and how networking with other travel agents is important to everyday agent life.”

Relationships within the travel industry keep agents abreast of what’s new and important, helping to enrich the client experience. “Anyone can book a hotel or cruise line,” said Ruth. “The connections and relationships provide an inside vision for the right hotel at the destination, or right cruise for each client.” It’s important to work with a tour operator who has a direct presence in a particular part of the world, for the best results.

“The strength of our business is in our relationships,” said Arcel. “The most rewarding part of my job is seeing how an adventure of a lifetime or a trip to visit a lifelong friend impacts a person.” While suppliers play a large role in creating these experiences, many offer similar products, so it’s important to build relationships and learn about each supplier’s strengths. “It is the relationships of the supplier that make me as a professional better,” Ruth adds.

The chapter’s good supplier connections let Arcel and Ruth provide diverse programming options for agents. Chapter meetings offer more intimate agent-supplier conversations than a large conference, and networking allows learning about suppliers as colleagues and partners working toward a common good. “NACTA members and potential members meet and develop working relationships for mutual benefit,” said Ruth. “Our meetings provide sometimes a thread of information that helps the agent work more efficiently for the their office and client.”

NACTA benefits are also helpful. Among Ruth’s favorites is NACTA Agent Digest, a daily sharing of experience, opinions, and valuable information. Another favorite is NACTA Annual Conference, a wonderful opportunity to learn about a new destination and perhaps have an opportunity to certify as a specialist. FAM trips and Seminars at Sea have been Arcel’s favorites—opportunities usually consisting of a small group and providing a mix of business, education, hands-on learning, and hosted excursions. “We arrive as agents and leave as friends!” Arcel learned about a new benefit—the OneSimCard—just before the January 2015 Bali FAM. To see how it worked, she bought the package and used the OneSimCard in Bali and Manila. “With OneSimCard, I saved a significant amount of money! Their support line was helpful when I needed to call, and I appreciated being able to be back online quickly.”

And then, there’s the co-directors’ support from NACTA. “Though I’d never been involved in chapter leadership prior to this experience, I’m thankful that Bob Duglin and Don McGahee encouraged me to do so. NACTA continues to support me in my learning and growth, and has been there to help Ruth and me build the chapter.” They had a highly successful Destinational in August 2013 and a well-attended trade show. “NACTA support has been outstanding, and that has helped me to serve the chapter.”

NACTA provides opportunities several times a year for membership enrollment. “Although we take membership year-round,” Ruth notes, “NACTA provides us the opportunity to offer promotions. Recently, NACTA established the new and worked with us to help our membership fill out their NACTA One Sheet—a résumé for the agent that would be listed on the site. NACTA offers webinars and destinationals, and helps Arcel and me provide our membership with as much information as possible to make the agent as resourceful as necessary.”

Arcel, who identifies as Filipina, explains that her NACTA experiences favor her cultural tradition of “embracing family as an extension of who we are.” When she became a NACTA member, she felt she’d become a part of a family. There was a genuine closeness and desire to help each other that she didn’t expect; there wasn’t any competition, either. “I feel a great sense of pride in my colleagues and friends when I read their One Sheets, and I’m thankful that we’re all helping each other to do and be better.

The NACTA agent family shares information and learns from one and other. “I love being part NACTA, a respected and emerging organization within the travel industry,” said Ruth. “We make a difference. We sit on the ASTA board and we have a voice in travel industry legislation. This is my career, my profession, and my life. Why not belong to an organization I share the same values with?

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Written by Amy Charles, editor of Agent Life magazine.