Hillary Clinton, former Secretary of State and possible presidential candidate, was without question the star power that held the crowd to the very end of the ASTA convention in Miami this week.
Amid tight security--including one instance in which security guards took Andrew Rothberg's smart phone and deleted the photo he had taken of her for his kids--Clinton spoke, answered pre-screened questions and generally entertained the crowd.
Speaking for more than half an hour without notes, Clinton avoided the subject of politics and instead talked about the importance of travel in opening minds and making the world a more peaceful place.
In Burma, for example, she said the fact that its generals went abroad and saw the rest of the world helped propel the country away from a dictatorship.
"I am convinced that travel helped change minds in the military dictatorship of Burma," Clinton said.
She also recalled the importance of travel in her own life, reminiscing about the first time she traveled with "this long haired guy I was dating" in 1973, Bill Clinton, who proposed to her in England.
Clinton visited 112 countries and logged more than a million air miles during her term as Secretary of State, making her "America's most frequent traveler."
She said she has a "deep appreciation for the magic you work each and every day" and thanked her own "terrific travel agent" for keeping her travels smooth.
"You help Americans follow their dreams," she said. "You are in the travel business but also in the dream business."
Nikki Grossman, CEO of the Greater Fort Lauderdale Convention and Visitors Bureau, presented Clinton with a glass globe filled with sand and shells.
"In some cities you get a key to the city or a plaque. In greater Fort Lauderdale, we have balls," Grossman said.
"And I don't think there's a person in this room, or perhaps in this world, who doesn't think you do, too."
Clinton did not talk about whether she will run for President in 2016, but did say she hopes a woman will "break that final glass ceiling."
ASTA, meanwhile, announced it will hold its 2014 Global Convention aboard the Norwegian Breakaway, while nearly a quarter of its member agents reported a revenue of increase of 10% or more in the first half of this year.
More than half of both corporate agencies (56%) and leisure agencies (52%), but just a third of independent home-based agents (33%) said revenues were up compared to the same period last year.
The increases included travel insurance (45%), cruises (43%), tours or group travel (43%), FIT (42%), hotel and resorts (34%) and air (28%), rail (17%) and car rental (16%).
Most agencies do not expect the stronger revenue and sales in 2013 to necessarily increase profits.
The first ASTA Global Convention to be held at sea, Sept. 14-21, 2014, will be on Norwegian Breakaway, sailing out of New York City to Bermuda.
Norwegian is expecting roughly 800 travel agents, suppliers, and other participants to attend. ASTA has not yet set a price, but it is taking names of agents and suppliers interested in attending.
Friday, September 20, 2013