We discuss current @astatraveladvisors initiatives, what travel advisors can do to help the travel industry moving forward and Zane's push on the hill fighting for governmental support to help small businesses and travel advisors.
Learn what we can all do to get involved, hear how Zane became a travel advocate and leading CEO, along with individual travel stories. Get motivated, learn more, and look towards future travel!
Find more at ASTA.Org, CEO Zane Kerby
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Hey adventures. Welcome to the no ordinary adventurer podcast, a place we call home for adventure and the conversations you want to have. We bring you inspiration stories from the field and talk with adventure travelers and industry experts from around the world. This is a place to fill your heart and head with travel knowledge. Now, your host Dan Blanchard, a lifelong Mariner traveler and CEO of UnCruise Adventures, a small boat adventure company defining the UN in UnCruise. Let's get started. And today, we are honored to have sang the CEO of the American Society of Travel advisors on board news. Zane is a huge, huge supporter of the travel industry. He has been on Capitol Hill pushing for legislation for some time, and particularly with the pandemic going on right now. So I hope you'll stick with us enjoy this time learn about what it's like to be the head of Asda. And the passive saying is he talks about working with Congress. First of all, really, thank you for coming on. I just want to say before we get started, it's an absolute honor to have you here. Thank you, we're really happy to have you all here today, listeners from all around the world and, and particularly from the travel industry, which is our industry of choice. It's our joy and pleasure, isn't it. But today, we have someone really special. I mean, I am just so honored and blown away that he agreed to come on. I've got the same Kirby probably from NASA, I was gonna say, I started to say agents, but it's advisors, barricade society, to travel advisors, and Zane Walker. Thank you so much for having me, Dan, and you could be forgiven. If you use agents, I still get emails with that on it, though, we did rebrand a few years ago to really talk about to really focus in on the role that the modern Travel Advisor provides, which is services to the consumer. Right. We they help the consumer to discern the very complex landscape of travel suppliers that are available to them. And that's so we definitely wanted to acknowledge that with the name change from agents to advisors. But again, Dan, thanks for having me. It's a pleasure. Absolutely, and I support that change. 100% I think that was a great move in I think it also just to carry on philosophically on that one for a moment. I think it ups the game. This there's something about the term advisor in particularly in today's world where and you know what, you know, when you and I first started in the business, it was a different role to some extent than it is today. So it's, it's exciting to see but so they, I, I've done my homework on you studied up, blown away, like, frankly, but tell me in your words, you know, if we could maybe deep go beyond the curtain a little bit here and talk about Zane as a person, mind the heck you've got into this industry, and how you started and heighten up to where you're at today. That's good. I find that just fascinating. Well, I'm not sure it's as interesting, interesting a story as your as you're letting on them, but thank you. I started in association work in college, really. And I come home, I was raised in the Northern Virginia and DC area. And so I would come home for summers to earn work and make some money if I go back out to school and afford to eat. And so I started, you know, temping for trade associations. And it seemed like really interesting works. I started at an Association, the American Academy of Audiology, so they're hearing healthcare practitioners more than 25 years ago. And then a job came available to add what was in the National Business Travel Association running all their business development. And at the time, I started at NBTA. There were 12 employees and used to watch you know, people used to watch soap operas, soap operas in the break room, you know, while they ate their lunch. And when I left NBT, which became dbta, 14 years later, there were 60 employees, it grown from a very small associate with some very large and really robust had a global convention that kind of was the envy of the world. And really, I ran all the business development and all the sales operations for about 20 professionals around the world. But I just could not resist though when when the job that asked that American side travel agents at the time came available, I threw my hat on, and I always have had it on Working at NBTA gpj gave me a real taste for and a love for for the travel industry. But working on behalf of travel advisors and all knowing the incredible work they did on the on the corporate side, but then being able to parlay that and work with people across the spectrum to work both on corporate and leisure travel, I couldn't resist it. And it's been quite a wild ride and education. But I would change a bit minute asked Assa now leading the staff team for about seven and a half almost eight years now and just really enjoyed it love working with the staff love interacting with our board of directors, which is so ably led by by the first quarter our chairman. Well, that's a that's a great history reminds me a little bit of my public common Frenchtown stole well around the ATI or ATT, excuse me, eventually travel trade association. And, you know, that is a very interesting thing when you when you're working with associations really trying to bring people together. I mean, it's a it's a big task. And it's a big challenge to bring competitors to bring diverse groups. I mean, what for you has been the secret to make that happen, both prior to Aston and today? I guess I think George will have great comments for The Washington Post great conservative columnist, I think he was quoting someone and he said, you know, government is the simple term and a simple definition of government is the things that we decide to do together, right important things we decided to do together. And so I think that success within Association in realizing that we have to link arms on certain in certain ways, we have to speak with one voice. You know, our legislators are overburdened and overrun with interest groups that are in there spending lots of money, trying to talk to them to sway the landscape in their favor every single day. So without a voice, working on behalf of the travel industry, and particularly travel advisors, you're lost in the shuffle and you're and you're leaving yourself exposed to the benevolence of others, which as we know, can't always can always rely on especially in the in the BloodSport we call politics. So we stand at the nexus between them, and business. And we harness all the voice of the entire travel advisory community. And we go to Capitol Hill, go to the supplier community and we go to the consumer and we talk to them about the value that travel is great, but the professional work that they do, and how consumers can benefit from it. So honestly, it hasn't been that tough of a job to to in a pandemic, of course, to realize that speaking with one voice is an extremely important thing, you know, asked it is run at a legislative pace for the last six years then. And what we've done is between 50 and 150 professionals come in every year, and they find it Washington, they meet with our legislators with the legislative staff. Now I just I would shudder to think what where we would be when we when the bills for the Cares Act is being written. If we this March and April, if we hadn't done all that spadework and worked with travel advisers and establish those relationships on Capitol Hill. Because when the time for decision arose, the time for preparation was over. And so it was so important that we were in in talking to our legislators to help them understand our problems. So we could win some some important victories for our members. Yeah, I tell you, the pandemic has amped all that up and given even more importance. I know in my case, you know, we started at us, like small ship Coalition for the same reasoning, you know, we were willing to be left out of the Cares Act. And because we had an increase we were just bundled with, with porn businesses. And of course of care. Zack dealt with US businesses, but many thanks for that. And maybe we can segue a little bit further. I mean, what's what's what's going on today? What's your big press on Capitol Hill today? Concerning the travel industry? So I mean, you know, we're laser focused on getting more relief for our members. And if there's that sort of priority on and that comes in several forms. First, is that, you know, there is airline aid that is widely recognized in the press in the popular press that is needed and it's actually the impetus for for some of the bills that are being proposed right now. We we actually sell travel advisors sell over 50% of all airline tickets, sold the United States eight or 900,000 every day. And also we're literally the lifeblood, the veins that connects consumers to the air. So it's all good well to save the airlines, but what really needs to happen is that we need to make sure that the plumbing of this house is actually healthy to. So we're hopeful that we could get included in some of that airline money. That's that's moving forward, that's going to be a portion for for for airlines as their primary distribution channel. The other thing is the restart act that we think is really important. And when we when we started to restart act in mid April, there was a two senators, one from Ohio, Colorado, that who had proposed it, and because of Alex's work, there are 57 senators now that endorse the restart acronym, and who sponsored it. So whatever gets passed in the next, you know, what we hope is days or hours, the reason the provisions within the restart Act, which would actually tie forgivable loans to those industries that are hardest hit. And, you know, there's there's arguments on Capitol Hill, whether 50%, down or 75%. Now, you know, our our members, businesses have been decimated. And so making sure that the restart that provisions in the restart, act, get into getting any final bill is an extraordinary, extraordinary important to our members. The last thing is, is that unemployment insurance with that independent contractors were made available to them by the Cares Act, which, you know, independent contractors don't pay into unemployment. But the fact that they got access to that program, save a lot of people in our industry, particularly the 1000s of independent contractors that work so, so well across United States dispensing travel advice. So those are three big priorities. We were shocked and appalled that Congress didn't put a new a new stimulus program or a new package together before the for recess in August. And we have been, we, we've had a dozen calls this week with legislators as well, Dan, to just really keep the pressure on and help them understand that they helped set the the travel industry down. So they've got to help. They've got to bridge us until travel demand returns. Oh, that is so true. And I think, you know, a message for listeners. And I would, you know, you and I are working on the same vein here, just a little different venue. But I'm really happy to see the support we have from the Senate on those bills. I know my Senator Lisa Murkowski is very involved. And and I just saw happy about that. But what words might you have for you chances are we have a lot of industry folks listening, and what like how can it how can the frontline agent, how can that agency owner, how can they help us out in this, you know, thrust to get something done in DC. I think you know, the old adage that, you know, water falling on the rock, eventually the raffle giveaway, like we have got to keep the pressure on acid makes it very simple to go and to contact your legislators just go to ask or if you click on the advocacy button. And within two or three clicks, you'll have your talking points and also the ability to contact your represent your members of Congress and your senators, and either send them an email or call their offices directly. If you just put in your zip code. It's just that simple. So we really need to keep the pressure on our elected officials to make sure that something happens prior to the election. Now, we're again hopeful there's only only three and a half weeks away you know that there's there's hope that something will happen before that. So there's there's headlines out of the White House today on $1.8 trillion package which is helpful. But the reality is our industry is not going to be what it could be and what needs to be unless we get more money from from hotter. So we've got to keep the pressure. But I agree and you know, one thing I don't know if this was a revelation to you sometime in life probably was about I was probably in my 30s Before I really realized the power of the pin the power of the email. And the reality is small business people that are out there, they have an ear in Congress, through the representatives I am continually amazed that Zane with Aster dam with UnCruise Adventures Can I actually write and get a response and impact things in our nation so I I love what you're saying about getting involved, particularly now because Congress is on recess for the next week. The house is it's really important and as a prize these these resources to our members. But But it's great to reach out to the local media because when your members of Congress go home, they turn the television on they watch the news too. And you If you've established a relationship with local reporters and taught them and told them that you're a travel expert, and that you have things to offer, opinions offer, now's a great time to go to those local media context and talk about what the pandemic has done your business and talk about, you can even you can even talk about things like that are coming down the line, like, you know, I, you know, you say, I, I know what's going to happen next year in terms of travel, I know what the hotspots are for the holiday travel. And you can start a conversation that way local media, but but making sure that we get the message out, you know, we need to really blanket the airwaves to because it's not if you're right, the power of the pen is important. Phone calls are extremely important. But also they will feel pressure from from local media, I've always said this, that our members of Congress, they would wake up in the morning, they want to see their name in the newspaper, they want to see their name in his paper helping a little guy moves and 90% of our businesses are small, our small business and 80% of them are female. So we haven't raised that we're exactly the kind of people that are members of Congress want to help and that they don't want to see hurt. So the more that messages interface, the better off we're going to be absolutely concur. It's it's exciting. When we see that happen. It's exciting. When we see response, I agree going out in a format to the press, getting them involved locally has huge value. What would advice making shifting gears a little bit here? You know, you talked about 80% of the women on businesses that want to ask so many of those are small businesses that have been around for a long time. I like to think that they're about our heart and soul of the American dream, quite frankly, many, many folks working out of small offices or out of their homes, and just a lot of grit and soul and get through this is we sit there and you and I work with travel agents all the time. What What kind of advice we can give them during this as we as we start to see some improvement they are response to the pandemic and traveled starts opening up in this kind of thing. What's the best advice you could give the travel agent and maybe the whole travel industry? i There's lots of advice. I mean, first off, I love I love interacting with the livestock travel advisors, six, and sometimes seven days a week. So it's definitely a dialogue and learn so much from them. But I will say, like I was saying, and and I would say that, you know, we are holding consumers every two weeks. And what we've learned is that being in a pandemic has not hurt, travel demand at all. In fact, it's made people want more. And when we asked we asked him similar to the pandemic effects of the pandemic, and and tomorrow, what would you do 46% of them said, I take a trip, you know, and like 20% said that they remodeled the house. And like 16% said they buy a new car. So I mean by a factor of two or three, like people want to get out they want to see the world and the pandemic is made them want it more or less. You think about travelers long term prospects are very, very good. And I think you know, the future of travel is not online. I mean, if anything, the pandemics reveal it revealed that it's a complicated world out there. And the smart people use a Travel Advisor to book their travel. They're the ones that made it home with very little with, you know, with, with ease, and without thinking twice about it. And for those people who, who booked on their own, that they were on their own when when closed when borders were closing, when cruise ships are being rerouted to other ports and they had to fly home from that port. I mean, they're actually thrown into a panic. But when but those two people work with an advisor, they were fine. And so we could try to do a better job of telling that story and put together a great video for national Travel Advisor. They don't put it out there, it's gotten several 1000 views are very proud of and it told the story of what travel advisors did for consumers in those chaotic days of the pandemic. And if anything, I because the world is complicated and more complicated than ever, I think more and more people are gonna be turning to the to a Travel Advisor to make sure that they can, that they're safe and that they know all the regulations. You know, my own family, we decided to go to Turks and Caicos next, next up next month. Now, we made overreach this article by suppose Hey, did you know that you have to have insurance you have to present proof of insurance when you and I did not. Wow, that was lucky. Lucky. No, it was because I had a Travel Advisor do those regulations. Those fine print had read the fine print and make me aware of it so that it wasn't stopped and sent home. It could have been disastrous. You know and since rules and regulations can be changing on the fly, establishing bilateral lationship with countries is going to be a slow process. So having a Travel Advisor, like right now we have to just own our expertise, I think in a way that we never had before. And I'm comfortable do it. Yeah, you know, I think for the for the listening public and on this is that from this very important point to be paid about the value of travel agents, particularly as we go into the future, I have the opportunity like yourself to talk to a lot of agents, I really believe that now more than ever, because things are complex. Agents have a chance to really learn about the different policies companies have, know which companies have a track record this kind of thing. I have actually seen some guests that have come to us direct in the past Tuesday, and they're saying he was making like to work with. And that is really, really hard thing. And I also want to date myself. But, you know, starting in the mid 80s, late mid to late 80s, we had some tough financial times, and then 2001 2007, eight. Now the pandemic, I've always found that it's the industry that comes back first meaning it's the travel agent, so laid off business, and a feeling that it's going to be able to bite off of the business this time that is going to perpetuate itself. And that this may be the time when we actually see an increase and agents post this pandemic I believe, there. You're absolutely right there there demand creators when you think about and and more people are turning to, you know, we also call people who you believe in terms of where are you looking for advice, and just pass the CDC and the who? Travel Advisor third on the list. Yeah, people want expertise. Right. And so I couldn't agree with you more that they they create demand for and really smart suppliers, like yourself, realize that, you know, this is someone who if we educate them, right, that they're actually They're an extension of our own Salesforce. And by the way, they don't get paid until something is actually so this is a this is an amazing niche here that works for everybody. And you know, I've never met a Travel Advisor like a miserable traveler. Like they, they love their jobs. They love helping people's dream come true. There's they're careful there. I was like, Yeah, that was miserable on a jetski. Just like, No, there's no miserable televises was no miserable Jetski. Right. It's like this is a professional people. We don't lose many players on this team. They have it. And they love for good reasons. They're great at it. And, and so, again, the smart suppliers know that this is something this is just a really synergistic relationship that they bet that all of us benefit from. I think that's, you know, not only true, every word you said it just sparked some fire that we all love about the industry we're in. It's certainly I was, you know, kind of look at us as we're in a more volatile industry industry for sure. Because we're disposable income. But is there a better place? And are there more honest people are there? I mean, it's just goes on and on changing lives every day. So if you look at the period of time we're in and they'll ask you for your crystal ball, probably the question we all get more than once the crystal ball with clay, but maybe I'll twist it a little little bit and say zany in your eyes, as you look into the crystal ball of providers like myselves companies that are out there. They're providing travel that the travel agents are booking, what would you say are the things that that I need to add other companies need to look at, you know, our brand going forward? What do we need to be cognizant of, you know, our brands to be able to work with your folks better? Yeah, I out years ago, I was shown I was given them a sort of sneak peek behind a very large Superbowl ad buy from from a supplier company said, What do you think? I said, Well, it's beautiful. It probably cost $20 million. But what are you doing to educate travel advisors about your about what makes you specific? Amazing. Well, not much. We've a lot of money on the Superbowl ad. Well, unfortunately, that didn't work out so well. And everyone at that agency got fired. And so the idea is, is really did it educating travel advisors about what makes us specific, particularly about what what either cleanliness processes, you know, I said, where, you know, Delta Airlines at the oxygenation of the cab of their cabins, that sort of thing. Spraying between at every turn every flight, the the HEPA filters that they're using, going to talk with the Hilton management team next week about the problem they have with Lysol. And once you once you actually work through assay and work through with our consortium partners, but make sure that you're communicating most things that you're doing, that are going to make people feel comfortable using it right that there's three, there's three entities here. And now the government needs to set clear rules of the road, no people understand now we've lived with a virus now for six months or so they understand that they have to take personal responsibility to keep themselves safe, and they're willing to do so. But then there is this, the third element was suppliers, what are what are you doing specifically, to make sure that that you're keeping people safe. And if you can communicate those things effectively, and communicate through the Travel Advisor channel, I think you're gonna want a lot of business. That very good advice. You know, I put 1.2, you know, you talk about the guests and make our award. In other words, as a guest that is traveling, really wants to do what's right, we found when we operate in Alaska this summer that, you know, we just we have three or four touch points with them through their agents, you know, the month prior, and including a week of isolation prior to the party. And those kinds of things are readily accepted by the traveler today, and, and I find that exciting, and allows us all startup. So kind of moving along here and maybe going back to my to the root of my questions, the same. I mean, you've told me now that you were about 15 years old when you started in the business 25 years ago. So I got that down here is here. This young guy started out very early. Probably even earlier that I know. I've got a few years on here for sure. But what what's the heart and soul of saying when he travels? Let me tell me about you. What do you do when you travel? What are the things you like are so our family has been so fortunate, I think my our we have five children. And they're all extraordinary travel snobs at this point. They they've been, they've been spoiled rotten. They've gotten to go to Morocco, and Spain and Kenya and the Far East. I mean, we've just been so spoiled. I don't I don't know if there's any one thing that we that we that we'd like to do, but at the heart of travel, tell you something recently that we did Dan and sweet. We started in Phoenix, and we drove up to 2300 miles over two weeks, just to get time together. And to see the great southwest of the United States. We again, started in Phoenix, went to arches, then went to Bryce and Zion, we went to Las Vegas and Sequoia National Forest. And we ended up in Yosemite in San Francisco. And so, you know, that was the first kind of trip like that, that we had ever done as a family. But it's really, you know, it's what makes our industry so special, is that we're not in we're in the business of creating dreams and memories. And that's why I think, again, PREV advisors are such happy people. Because that's what I write that's what I want my family I want to look back and I don't care what Bibles I've managed to acquire but I want my kids to know, Mr. White's know how important they are to be and how, how much spending times experiencing new locations and, and visiting and meeting new people. Travel is so important because it it really I love it. Rick Steves says it, you know, it destroys your sense of ethnocentrism, right? Realize that every culture has heroes and every people have, have every people have value and have so much that binds us together and makes us the same. I remember getting off the plane one time in San Paulo for the first time. And there was a young guy there. And he was listening to music on his little radio. And it was a song that I recognized from an American artist. I was like, Oh, how teenagers are all the same everywhere, right? And he was arguing with his mom, too. This is perfect. I didn't feel so I didn't feel like anything I didn't understand at length, but it feels so far. So I love I love what travel is done. I brought my perspective, does it my children, that they now know that although they're the center of my universe, they're not the center of the universe. And so I just love what we travel does. That's why That's why I'm here. It's why we fight so hard to for travel advisors to be know how important that profession is to just stay up to keep alive. Do so those are really good words. I can't even imagine that trip with your family at this time. I mean, how cool was that? 14 yours in the car for 2300 miles, two weeks, it had its moments, but everyone came back in one piece, I'm going to start calling you, St. Zane. That is awesome. My friend. I remember doing that a couple of times when my kids were young. And those were exciting trips. And I believe I think some of the best memories we have, and either out on our sailboat or car traveling together, and so awesome. You know, we have a whole room of travelers out there that are itching to get back we have a whole industry that is yes, aching for revenue. A lot of businesses are going a lot including mine a long period of time without any significant revenue. What What are your words to the entire industry to to encourage us on? I mean, do you have any, any thoughts about kind of keeping us together keeping us going? We covered a lot of ground data. And I would just say again, that if you look at we say the Department of Commerce Data, you know, we're data nerds, right? That has to, and again, there's only been two times in the last 20 years that travel has dipped a little. And that was that 2001 And it rebounded very quickly after that. And then after the 2008 we rate recession. And it only took three years after the great recession for travel to return to its level and then shoot up even further. So again, it's endemically human spirit to go and see. And you know, it's just it's so unsatisfying to look at pictures of period Paris in the pyramids, right, you got to go, you've got to smell the air, got to meet the people, you've got to try the cuisine you have. And that and that's going to that's not going away. And in fact, because the pandemic is and the force quarantines and, and shutdowns, it's actually caused this enormous amount of pent up demand. So everything that we're reading everything that we're seeing, and again, we're pulling consumers every two weeks. And you know, there have been some dips about in certain areas as to how comfortable they are either staying in a hotel or flying a plane, or taking a cruise. But it's it's funny, Dan, like all those things. March, April, May, June, July, August, people just starting to get more and more comfortable with living with the virus and getting up letting it dictate arise. So we're super excited about the future. We need Congress to help us get there. I think they will. They think they're going to do the right thing. We'll have enough conversations on the Hill to I think, effect change, which is important. But yeah, just hold on is because better days to come. I believe so as well. And I really appreciate having you on with this Today's our, our mind has been expanded. We've learned some things. And I think you can give us hope to keep your cat or Thomas to keep the faith. And I appreciate that deeply. You know, there's a lot of things we can talk about what we're doing. But at the end of the day, it's our heart and soul that gets us through this. And I can tell you, I'm right there with you on the hill. And if I can ever provide any aid from the Alaska Washington delegation, we have offices in both both areas, we would love to hop on board, if you do have any upcoming webinars or things that people can tune in to it after that might be beneficial. We have Bill Taylor, who's the founding editor of Fast Company, he's going to come and present some of what he sees him through through a broad swath of business experience and his own business acumen. He's He's a regular writer for the Harvard Business Review. Such a really nice, we've hired him to comment and talk to our premium members about what they can do happy they can best position their businesses. So yeah, I really recommend that. And yeah, we have a profit coming up as well. So in December, where we have about 120 Travel advisors heading with us to the problem. So if any of your listeners would like to get out and see a new destination, and add that to their portfolio of things that they sell, obviously, as an agent for Americans and so come with us, we'd love to see you might have to sign up for that sounds really interesting and fun. All right, saying thank you very much and blessings to you and yours and and thank you again so much for all you've done for the industry. I hope that if you're ever in Seattle or Juneau, which I live in both, you'll look me up and we'll go for a walk and we'll talk philosophy. We'll talk travel, we'll talk what it's like to be a small business person. Deal. Thank you. Alright, thanks for having us. Such a pleasure to talk to you. Thanks for listening to no ordinary adventure sharing locally harvested stories about adventure Be sure to subscribe. Leave a review, tell a friend and help spread the word. We are a community of nature lovers, intrepid travelers and outdoor adventurers mostly from the comfort of a small boat and we want to spread our love of this fascinating planet. That's it for this episode. Now get it outside