Last updated: 04:28 PM ET, Mon July 18 2016

Agents Are Responding to ASTA's Call for Disaster Volunteers

Travel Agent | American Society of Travel Agents (ASTA) | Robin Amster | July 18, 2016

Agents Are Responding to ASTA's Call for Disaster Volunteers

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In the wake of the recent tragedy in Nice — the latest in a growing number of terrorist attacks — ASTA is responding with a list of travel agent “volunteer responders” for consumers to contact if they need assistance following these incidents.

The list — what the association is calling a “disaster assistance team” — is made up of agents who responded to ASTA’s call for members willing to offer consumers immediate help with travel plans if they are impacted by terrorist or, in fact, other crisis situations like ongoing political unrest in Turkey.

The agent first responders have agreed to act as a point of contact for any traveler under duress and the list is posted on ASTA’s consumer site

Erika Richter, ASTA senior manager, communications and government affairs, stressed that the assistance is for emergency logistical support and travel planning. And if consumers have booked their trip with their own agent, that agent should be the first person he or she calls, said Richter.

This kind of support will eliminate travelers’ need to take on the burden of rearranging travel plans and itineraries under stressful conditions.

“Agents are there to help when things go wrong,” said Richter. “Are you going to spend your precious time on the phone with an airline or Googling your options? Or are you going to make one call to a travel agent who can help you every step of the way?”

Eben Peck, ASTA’s senior vice president of government and industry affairs, said that, “As subject-matter experts, ASTA agents have a role to play in helping travelers cope with emergencies or natural disasters, and we are heartened that so many of our members are stepping up to the plate in these uncertain times.”

“Helping those in need is the right thing to do, and we will work tirelessly with the State Department and other relevant authorities to make sure our members have the guidance and tools to get the job done.”

READ MORE: Staying Safe in Rio During the 2016 Summer Olympics

The Ensemble Travel Group’s senior director air & travel solutions, and a member of the responders team, weighed in on the effect of the latest Nice terrorist incident. “Tragedies like this (Nice), especially in popular tourist destinations, do make many people nervous and anxious when it comes to travel,” said Brian Chapin.

“It’s almost impossible not to be, even if you’re not traveling and following the news at home,” he added. “ Oftentimes, though, that initial alarm turns to an attitude of ‘this is not going to stop me’ from experiencing the world.”

Chapin said none of the agents he’s talked with were reporting cancellations by their clients following the Nice incident. In fact, Chapin thinks many Americans are accepting risk as part of the “new normal” and not allowing recent terror attacks to stop them from traveling both close and far from home.

“That said, it’s really too early to tell the short- and long-term impact of the attack on travel bookings,” he said. “We respect that travel is very much a personal decision. Recent experience tells us though that generally speaking, Americans may alter their future travel plans, considering other destinations rather than canceling the trip all together.”

ASTA is at the beginning of reaching out to agents to be on the responders list. It expects the number of agents to grow.

The list now includes:

• Jason Holland, Travel Simplicity, Etters, Pa. (President of the ASTA Delaware Valley Chapter)

• Susan Aft, Discount Travel and Cruise, Atlanta. (President of the ASTA Southeast Chapter)

• Denise R. Coubarous-Payne , Couba Travel, Willow Grove, Pa.

• Brian Chapin,  Senior Director Air & Travel Solutions, Ensemble Travel Group, Chicago


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