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May 27, 2015, Alexandria, VA – Leaders of SBN, in an exercise to identify the most valuable benefits of belonging to and joining the association, have determined the $165 annual membership fee is actually worth $2,500.

The 35 travel consultant volunteers, all SBN Chapter Directors, reviewed and monetized the individual value of 20 SBN membership benefits while also learning best practices on running a successful chapter during a two-day meeting held at the Sandals Royal Bahamian Resort and Spa on Nassau May 21-24. SBN will incorporate the best practices of running a successful chapter into a directory to help guide future leaders in running a successful organization, including a how-to guide on conducting meetings and events for travel consultants.

“Let me be clear, SBN is not raising its dues as a result of this exercise,” said ASTA President Ann van Leeuwen. “We simply wanted to know, from our Chapter Directors, what they valued most about membership so that we continue to deliver those products, events and services.” SBN has grown to nearly 50 chapters across the U.S. and Canada in the last 19 months with the addition of 12 new chapters. “It’s not only about the growth of SBN that I’m pleased about,” said van Leeuwen. “I’m particularly proud of the quality of the chapter program, and I attribute that to the passion these directors have in serving their members, and running successful chapters.”

The meeting also included a four-hour, intensive training workshop on the Sandals product line including updates on new developments and amenities. “Sandals has hosted the last two consecutive SBN leadership meetings because their travel consultants are experienced professionals with clientele interested in our all-inclusive resorts,” said Alice McCalla, National Director of Industry Affairs at Sandals.
“It’s a win-win to have the SBN leadership team experience our resort properties first hand as they are influential leaders and effective sales consultants within their Chapters and that is of great value to Sandals.”

Van Leeuwen and two staff members, Robert Duglin, Vice President of Sales and Industry Relations and Don McGahee, Manager, Member Sales and Service, helped supervise the meeting while Dan Smith, owner of Travel by Dan and Lorene Romero, owner of Sharp Tongue Consulting, co-chaired the meeting.

“The SBN Chapter Director's meeting allowed me to learn, contribute and connect with other chapters across the United States, which in turn will make me a better leader of the Hawaii chapter,” said Ken Kimi, owner of A Touch Above Travel Services. “SBN has provided excellent educational opportunities to members through webinars, conferences, and familiarization trips. The bar has been raised with the focus on quality and not quantity of SBN advisors, according to feedback from suppliers,” he said.

“This was my first SBN Chapter Director’s meeting as the new Central Florida Director and, wow, I came away with fresh ideas to implement and grow the Chapter,“ commented Denise Johnson, an affiliate of Avoya Travel/American Express.

Over the past two years, SBN Chapters have held 300 meetings across the country, allowing travel consultants to network with other like-minded travel professionals and to stay abreast of industry issues and supplier product offerings. Chapter Directors meet with SBN headquarters quarterly in addition to two in-person meetings a year to help guide the mission and direction of SBN. SBN represents approximately 1,900 travel professionals. Annual membership dues include invitations to attend ASTA (American Society of Travel Advisors) meetings and events such as ASTA’s Global Convention at the ASTA member rate.

Community, Education and Training for career travel consultants remains the focal point of SBN membership.

ASTA Small Business Network (SBN) is the travel industry’s leading national trade association representing independent contractors, outside sales consultants, cruise and tour oriented consultants, group oriented travel professionals and traditional ARC-appointed travel agencies that provide services and support to such professionals. Established in 1986, SBN’s mission is to represent the interest of independent travel entrepreneurs and to promote professionalism and recognition for the professional independent consultant. SBN is an affiliate of ASTA, the American Society of Travel Advisors, the world’s largest travel trade association.