The sunny skies of Puerto Rico provided a warm and welcoming setting for travel advisors from around the country to network, learn and celebrate, as the 2023 ASTA Global Convention took place May 2-4 at in San Juan.
Nearly 900 attendees — including suppliers, tourism officials and more than 500 travel advisors — gathered at the Puerto Rico Convention Center for a robust agenda of general sessions, educational workshops and social gatherings.
Educational Sessions and Destination Experiences
The overall tone of the convention was decidedly optimistic, as attendees related stories about the rebound of travel. A recent study by ASTA, in fact, found that 47 percent of survey respondents ranked a vacation as their top discretionary spending — twice as many as the second choice, a home improvement or renovation. In addition, Millennial and Gen-Z travelers are 22 percent more likely than the average U.S. traveler to spend more on travel this year.
Making the most of growth opportunities was an underlying theme in many of the convention’s educational workshops. As usual, the ASTA Global Convention offered a diverse array of sessions addressing a variety of topics, including marketing, client communication, embracing diversity, wellness tourism and creating compelling content, to name a few.
The ASTA Global Convention is also a time to recognize the contributions of individuals and organizations to the travel industry. Among the highlights was the annual Advocacy Dinner, which recognized the “superstars” of the travel industry.
Top winners included the following:
- ASTA Lifetime Achievement Award: Frank Del Rio, Norwegian Cruise Lines
- Paul Ruden Industry Ambassador Award: Roger Block, Travel Leaders Network
- Barbara O’Hara Advocacy Award: Rick Ardis, Ardis Travel
- John Haskins Chapter Advocacy Award: ASTA Mid-Michigan Chapter
In addition, the New York City Small Business Network Chapter won the Robert L. Duglin Chapter Excellence Award, which recognizes the ASTA Chapter that exhibits qualities of conscientiousness, community building and overall excellence. Kyle Bohman of the Central Florida Chapter won the recently renamed George “Eddie” Woodham Chapter President of the Year award. And Cabana won the 2023 Entrepreneur of the Year award, receiving a $10,000 grand prize from the Dan & Gloria Bohan Foundation. Dr. Terika L. Haynes of Dynamite Travel, LLC, won the Travel Advisor of the Year award.
A variety of travel industry suppliers were also honored for their contributions to the travel industry and productive partnerships with the travel agency community. Kristin Karst and AmaWaterways won an impressive three categories, taking home honors as the Partner Company of the Year, River Cruise Line Partner of the Year and the Supplier Medal of Excellence.
New Executive Committee
ASTA Board of Directors also elected its new Executive Committee for 2023-2024, starting their terms at the close of the convention:
- Chair: Jackie Friedman, President, Nexion Travel Group
- Vice Chair/Secretary: Lee Thomas, COO, ALTOUR; President, Business Travel & The Travel Authority
- Treasurer: Kelly Bergin, CEO, Duglin Travel Group
- Corporate Advisory Council (CAC) Chair: Kathy Bedell, SVP, BCD Travel
“It’s an incredible honor to be the new chair for the ASTA Board of Directors,” said Friedman. “My sincere thanks go to Marc Casto for his leadership over the past two terms, and I am excited to work with this tremendous group of travel professionals.”
The convention also provided an opportunity for one of the sponsors, Discover Puerto Rico, to showcase the destination. Attendees were able to join sightseeing excursions, including an Old San Juan “walk and taste” tour, a Bacardi Distillery mixology experience and a tour to El Yunque National Rainforest. The welcome party, meanwhile, provided an opportunity for attendees to experience one of San Juan’s newest major attractions Distrito T-Mobile, an entertainment complex that’s home to restaurants, bars, a music hall and the ToroVerde Urban Park, which is an indoor adventure park.
“I am very excited for this year’s ASTA Global Convention in San Juan, Puerto Rico,” said Zane Kerby, President and CEO for the American Society of Travel Advisors. “I want to thank our hosts from Discover Puerto Rico as well as all our sponsors, speakers, presenters and all those who did the hard work putting this fantastic event together. We’ve watched as the travel industry continued its path upward over the past couple of years, and every opportunity we have to come together feels like a celebration of how far we’ve come.”
Topics From This Article to Explore