ASTA Charts Travel Agent Advocacy Priorities, Other Initiatives for 2016Press Releases - News - ASTA

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ASTA Charts Travel Agent Advocacy Priorities, Other Initiatives for 2016

New Membership Category, Increased Promotion to Consumers Planned

Alexandria, VA –The American Society of Travel Agents (ASTA) has set an aggressive agenda to promote and defend the travel agent community in general—and ASTA members in particular—in 2016. This includes everything from a new membership category for Independent Contractors to increased grassroots organizing to a direct injection of marketing dollars from U.S.-based chapters for consumer awareness.

In mid-2016 ASTA will create a new Independent Contractor (IC) membership category of $199 per year for ICs who are affiliated with an ASTA Premium Agency Member and who sign a two-year agreement, or who are already a National Association of Career Travel Agents (NACTA) member. "For the past two years ASTA's large consortia members have been showing an enhanced commitment to the association by subsidizing and mandating membership. We believe a tiered membership structure is the best way for members to pay according to their ability based on sales, and the new IC category is another way to help those agents who want to join ASTA to do so," said President and CEO Zane Kerby. Travel agents will see more details about this new membership category, which was approved by the ASTA national Board of Directors on Dec. 15, in the coming weeks.

Regarding travel agent consumer awareness efforts, ASTA's Chapter Presidents Council (CPC) has voted to allocate money from chapter funds to ASTA headquarters for projects that will promote the use of ASTA member agents. "Widely promoting trusted travel agents and the incredible work they do is one of our top priorities in 2016," said Kerby. This will include a revamped consumer website that connects travelers with ASTA members. "Just last week a board member told me he made a $23,000 commission from a trip quote requested by a user. This is a major member benefit we hope to enhance next year that puts money directly in ASTA members' pockets."

ASTA also has an equally impressive list of priorities to defend and promote agents on the government and industry affairs fronts in 2016. Much of that effort involves little-known skirmishes in state legislatures across the country. In 2015, for example, ASTA and its members helped save the industry $110 million per year in new taxes thanks to battles fought and won on sales and hotel tax expansion proposals in Maine, Maryland, Ohio, Virginia, Washington and Wisconsin.

On the Government and Industry Affairs agenda for 2016:

  • Fighting against misleading hotel marketing campaigns that tell consumers the best rates or free Wi-Fi and other perks only come by booking direct when agents have access to those same rates and inventory
  • Opposing state proposals to apply sales and hotel occupancy taxes to agency fees and other income
  • Wrapping up a campaign with the U.S. Travel Insurance Association to replace costly and complex travel insurance licensing regulations with a single state standard (currently in place in 42 states plus the District of Columbia)
  • Supporting the Freedom to Travel to Cuba Act, designed to lift the Cuba travel ban once and for all and allow our citizens to act as ambassadors of American values abroad
  • Working to mitigate the worst impacts of pending U.S. Department of Labor proposals related to overtime eligibility and independent contractors
  • Updating the DOT Regulatory Compliance Course launched this year that now has 1,600 agents enrolled and saving money by avoiding costly government fines

"In addition to our advocacy wins, in 2015 the traveling public was reminded that a professional travel agent is not only someone you go to when you want to book your dream trip, but is also someone essential at reducing risk, reducing stress and taking care of you when the unexpected happens," said Kerby. "As we say here at ASTA, without an agent, you're on your own."

ASTA (American Society of Travel Agents) members represent 80 percent of all travel sold in the United States through the travel agency distribution channel. Together with hundreds of internationally based members, it is the leading global advocate for travel agents, the travel industry and the traveling public. ASTA’s history of travel industry advocacy traces back to its founding in 1931 when it launched with the mission to facilitate the business of selling travel through effective representation, shared knowledge and the enhancement of professionalism. For more information, visit

ASTA’s sister association, The National Association of Career Travel Agents, represents a professional community of independent travel agents ready to assist the traveling public.

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