Ten years ago at dinner with a close friend I shared my list of complaints about this business we know and love. As only a good friend can do, he admonished me to quit complaining and start creating solutions. First on his recommendation list was to join ASTA. Taking the challenge to heart I joined Premium and then the Corporate Advisory Council (CAC). In short order I ran for and was elected as an officer of the CAC which by virtue of its charter served on the board of ASTA.
At that time when joining the Board the organization was in disarray, with declining membership, abysmal financial performance, poor employee morale, and lacking in strategic direction. Through the efforts of many committed and engaged staff and board members we were able to architect and implement the restoration of ASTA. I am deeply proud of our combined efforts to resurrect this vibrant organization so critical to our mutual success.
Of course, that is the past and the future always beckons. I am seeking a position on the Board with eyes on the future. Specifically, if elected to the ASTA Board I will focus on:
Continued expansion of membership in all categories, from IC’s to Consortiums to Globals.
Work closely with Chapters to proactively introduce favorable trade legislation on both a federal and state basis protecting our business.
Drive consumer outreach campaigns to encourage better recognition of our business model by the general public.
Create a path to make the travel industry carbon neutral and encourage environmentally sustainable practices for both industry and consumer.
Establish a permanent Tech Steering Committee on the ASTA board to ensure we are informed and can guide future changes in travel, from NDC to AI.
Needless to say, critical to each of the above is a continual focus on ASTA’s operational finances and ensuring the organization always operates in the black.
As a result of my prior service on the Board I was honored to receive the Barbara O’Hara Advocacy Award as well as the inaugural Paul M Ruden Award. Now, I would be honored to receive your vote to elect me back to the Board.
While we are certainly not the intended target of AB5 (it’s meant for Uber, Lyft, and other gig economy companies) we are potential collateral damage. I am deeply concerned about the impact upon the travel advisor marketplace due to AB5, certainly in part as my own operations will be affected.
ASTA both nationally as well as locally has been invested from the very beginning in the fight to repeal or amend AB5. Particular credit goes out to the local chapters which have been instrumental in this regards. The most recent focus has been to include an exception for travel advisors, similar as to one version of the bill provided for real estate brokers, hairdressers, and others.
The success of ASTA in these matters though is only possible through member involvement. To that end I strongly encourage everyone in California to share their feelings with their Congress person. You can share your feedback via ASTA’s Advocacy page.
In the end, I believe we will find an accommodation to thrive even with these new rules. Travel Advisors are nothing if not resilient.
If elected, I begin already intimately familiar with all elements of ASTA operations, its charter, its membership, and its focus. Beneficially I have the served for 7 years on the Board of Directors in my capacity with the Corporate Advisory Council.
When I joined initially ASTA was suffering from a severe operating deficit, saw double digit declining membership, and disengaged supplier partners. During those intervening years the Board, Senior Leadership, and myself were able to steer ASTA to fiscal solvency (including a sizeable cash reserve), increase membership, and restore esteem within the supplier community. A key participant in this success was Jackie Friedman who is also running for the board and has my full support.
If given the opportunity to serve again I will focus on building upon the success of ASTA and assist it in achieving new heights.
From my viewpoint I believe there are three primary areas of concern: regulatory, industry, and environmental.
Regulatory: Our business is frequently misunderstood and overlooked, most commonly in the halls of government. This includes everything from overzealous sales taxes, incorrect application of hotel taxes upon commissions, disordered and confusing seller of traveler licensing, and—and most critically—the trend to legislate away the independent contractor model. It is only through the active and sustained advocacy of ASTA we are able to address and find cures to these developments.
Industry: The travel industry is about to face a period of profound and dynamic change. Between the massive undertaking in the promotion and release of NDC (New Distribution Capabilities) which will upend the process of faring and selling airline inventory, the continued consolidation of brands within the hotel space~, and the rapid expansion of cruise lines and their service capacity, our supplier relations will be unlike any period in our past. Additionally, there is a massive development of new technologies rapidly gaining application within our industry, from artificial intelligence and machine learning, to chatbots and blockchain.
Environmental: Travel is a necessary good: it unites cultures, fosters new business, enriches families, and makes life memorable. Travel is also one of the leading contributors to climate change. We stand at a great opportunity to influence sustainable business practices that preserve the joy and wealth of travel without the significant environmental impact.
I believe a successful resolution of these challenges requires the direct engagement of ASTA and its members. If given the opportunity, I will help lead ASTA to these goals.
Expanded relations with Cuba and an opening of the travel market had been an advocacy priority of both ASTA as well as myself for the last 10 years. I believe very firmly that allowing the free exchange of travelers between Cuba and the United States will be economically and politically beneficial for both countries.
On multiple occasions, and in conjunction with ASTA, I have met with all manner of legislators to encourage a reduction in travel restrictions to Cuba. Needless to say we had more success under some administrations than others. Opening up travel to Cuba will remain a key focus for myself in the future.
Encouraging a safe travel experience in all destinations, Central America and beyond, is always of interest in the travel industry. Continued public campaigns will be beneficial to this outcome as there is an unmistakable correlation between countries that encourage travel and their economic opportunities.