As the world’s premiere association of travel advisors, ASTA relies on member-elected officers and paid staff to set policy and carry out our missions. Volunteers play a large role in every area, from advocacy to public relations.

Regional Director Candidates



North Central Regional Director Candidates

Contact Information

Name: Deb Belchak
Title: Owner
Agency Name: Lazy Dayz Travel LLC

E-mail: debbelchak@yahoo.com

Candidate Statement

I'm excited to share that I am running for re-election as the North Central Regional Director for ASTA. Over the past two years, I have been honored to serve in this role, and I am proud of the progress we have made as a community. As your current Regional Director and CPC Chair, Mid-Michigan Chapter President, and member of the ASTA Board of Directors, I have dedicated myself to representing all types of advisors and ensuring their voices are heard. With your vote, I would be honored to continue working with the ASTA Board, Chapter Presidents, leadership teams, and members for another two years. 

 I believe that it is critical to have a strong and effective advocate for travel advisors. Whether it involves government relations, industry affairs, or consumer awareness, we need a united voice to advance our initiatives. That is why I am passionate about supporting ASTA and all travel advisors. Through collaboration, teamwork, trust, and member involvement, we can grow the travel industry and strengthen our collective voice. 

As your Regional Director, I will continue to use my industry experience, relationships, and perspective to ensure that your voices and views are heard. I am deeply committed to expanding our association through mentorship, leadership, and advocacy. As a longtime member of ASTA and Small Business Network (formally known as NACTA), I understand the importance of professionalism, communication, and equal representation. 

 In addition to my role as Regional Director, I have served on the Advocacy Committee to assist with advocacy awareness and Unique Vacations’ Chairman's Advisory Council. Through these positions, I have gained valuable insight and knowledge to better serve our members. 

 I have been a proud and enthusiastic supporter of ASTA and ASTA SBN for over two decades. With 24 years of experience as a travel advisor and 18 years in leadership positions, I am confident in my ability to represent the advisor community and consumers. I have held numerous leadership positions in the industry, including serving as ASTA SBN Mid-Michigan Chapter President and Chapter CO-Director of the NACTA Chapter for Mid-Michigan. 

 Under my volunteer leadership and with the support of my team, the Mid-Michigan ASTA SBN Chapter board and travel professional family, we have received several awards, including the 2017 Chapter Excellence Award, 2018 Chapter Director of the Year, 2020 & 2022 Regional Director of the Year, and the 2021 Robert L Duglin Spirit of ASTA Award. I am immensely proud of our accomplishments and look forward to achieving even more together. 

 I am a firm believer in education and training. I have earned several travel industry accreditations, including ASTA's Verified Travel Advisor (VTA), Elite Cruise Counsellor (ECC), Master Cruise Counsellor (MCC), and Accredited Cruise Counsellor (ACC). Additionally, I hold several destination specialist and supplier brand certifications. I encourage all members to become certified in all travel industry and travel supplier certifications. 

 On a personal note, I began my career in the travel industry as an outside sales agent and started my own agency to gain more training and hands-on experience. I am dedicated to serving the travel community and have also held many management, medical, and legal certifications. 

 In closing, I would be honored to have your vote for my final term as North Central Regional Director. Together, we can continue to grow our industry, expand our association, and advocate for travel advisors and consumers. Thank you for your consideration. 

Deb Belchak, VTA, ECC 


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Contact Information

Name: Melinda M Fortunato
Title: President
Agency Name: Best Travel

E-mail: melinda@besttrvl.com

Candidate Statement

My Name is Melinda Fortunato, and I would like your vote on March 21 for North Central Regional Director of American Society of Travel Advisors.

Over the last few years as ASTA Central Atlantic Chapter President, I was able to harness the amazing strength and energy of ASTA at the chapter level. It would be an honor to harness that same strength and energy from your chapters for our region as your North Central Regional Director. 

My Vision 

For our region to be a community of chapter leaders with collective goals, intentions, and standards that we use to maintain strong, successful chapters. 

My Goals 

I want to create an environment where we regularly collaborate and support each other. Our industry is evolving, and we must encourage and nurture new energy and ideas to keep our members engaged. To achieve these goals, I plan to:

  • Build a Collaborative Team in our region 
  • Advocate regularly as your liaison with ASTA Headquarters 
  • Quarterly Zoom Meetings for brainstorming & inspiration 
  • Open Door Policy to call, text or email with questions or just to say Hi 
  • Collaborative network of leaders at your fingertips 
  • Consistent support for chapter requirements and deadlines 

Chapter Leadership Challenges

While serving as Chapter President is rewarding, it has its challenges, and these are common challenges amongst most chapters. I want to leverage each other’s experience, expertise, and creativity to help face these challenges together. My key focus areas are: 

  • Building & retaining an Active Board 
  • Communication among ASTA leadership and headquarters 
  • Opening and managing Bank Accounts 
  • Volunteer Position & Time 
  • Chapter Geography and Participation in Events 
  • Grow & Retain Membership 
  • Raising Money & supporting ASTA Advocacy 

Chapter President Accomplishments

In March 2020 I met with fellow ASTA members to rebuild the Central Atlantic Chapter after a few years that it was inactive. While the pandemic was crushing our industry, I led our chapter board to accomplish the following:

  • Built and retained an active board
  • Monthly Hotel Site Inspections in Washington DC, Maryland, and Virginia
  • Created Regional Team Leader Committee to plan events. Additional Committee Positions: Marketing Coordinator, Membership & Tech Coordinator, Supplier Liaison, Special Events Coordinator
  • Monthly Virtual Happy Hours including guest speakers like travel attorney, Tom Carpenter, Annie Fitzsimmons with AFAR and Steph Lee with Host Agency Review
  • In Person Events with travel partners and training
  • Established a bank account and accounting system for charging vendors

Additional Accomplishments & Leadership Positions

I love and am passionate about being a Travel Advisor and have always strived to grow as a professional. Here are other areas that I’ve served the travel industry:

  • Nexion Advisory Board
  • Nexion Networks Leader for DC Metro
  • TheJetSet.TV featured Travel Trend Advisor
  • ASTA Travel Advisor of The Year 2022

I have learned that listening is one of the most important tools that I have as a Travel Advisor, and it is a tool that I’ve used in my leadership positions to understand important issues and lead change. I will listen to you and take action as your Regional Director. 

I’m asking for your vote on March 21 to serve as your North Central Regional Director. 

Thank you for being a leader for ASTA!

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South Central Regional Director Candidates

Contact Information

Name: Jane Norman
Title: Certified Travel Advisor
Agency Name: Travel by JJ Design

E-mail: jj@jjdesigntravel.com

Candidate Statement

Allow me to start with- I would love your vote!  I am a 25+ year travel industry veteran, having worked in both Wholesale and Retail side of Travel.   

I've have always believed that advisors must have a strong and effective advocate to consistently promote and importantly, defend our industry. Regardless of issue, should it be government relations, industry advocations, or consumer awareness, ASTA is leading the charge for our profession. It should be noticed that they deserve mention for their efforts in helping us all of us through the challenges of the past years.  

ASTA has had our backs, which is why I will provide support, never afraid to roll up our sleeves and pitch in. 

I started in the travel industry as a front-line agent, then worked with wholesale groups, switching back over to Corporate meetings and incentives.  

Have also been team lead, then became a travel agency branch manager, which lead to Independent Counselor ownership. 

I’ve strived to create stream lined process while serving ASTA Upper Midwest chapter Treasurer, and as past- president.  

Currently serving as the ASTAPAC chair for a combined 9 years. Every year, my personal budget includes a generous donation to ASTAPAC. 

At our ASTA membership meetings, we have provided members opportunities to grow their business through support with training, mechanization, and supplier networking. 

All of us, whether agency owners, advisors, or industry leaders, we need an insightful, sprightly professionals representing our interests with knowledgeable staff and accomplished volunteer leadership. It always makes me proud that so many of our advisors are engaged in ASTA leadership positions, and engaged at the local chapter level. I have been a passionate supporter of ASTA for many years. As our membership grows, local chapters grow, helps to make our ASTA grow stronger together. That’s why I always encouraged advisors to support their industry association and show their support of becoming ASTA members.  

At the local chapter level, I have gained extensive experience with ASTA and working steadfast to the national level.  I have been a regular participant in ASTA’s Annual Legislative Day. I have served as Minnesota state lead to help newcomers learn the ropes on Capitol Hill.  I’ve taken an active role in state government affairs and was proud to attend local Minnesota committee hearings on issues like Real ID when our state was one of the last three to get on board. Taking it one step further, by creating a client forward facing document, for client awareness available from all ASTA members.  

Our travel industry offers an exceptional opportunity for those passionate about travel and entrepreneurship, and I’m dedicated to helping our industry be the best it can be.  I lead by example, by focusing on my own personal professional development and industry certifications.  

My travel industry accreditations include ASTA’s Verified Travel Advisor (VTA), as well as the Certified Travel Counselor (CTC) from the Travel Institute. 

I am seeking this, my first term on the ASTA National Board of Directors, and sure do hope that I can count on your support. Allow me to close with- I would value your vote! 

Jane Norman 
Upper Midwest Chapter ASTAPAC Chair 

Upper Midwest Chapter Past President 

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Contact Information

Name: Mike Weingart
Title: President
Agency Name: Air Land Sea Consultants

E-mail: airlandseaconsultants@gmail.com

Candidate Statement

I would appreciate your vote for South Central Regional Director. 

I entered the travel industry nearly four decades ago and grew my agency from$1 million to nearly $80 million.  I subsequently sold it but continued to manage it for 10 years.  Since then I have run an independent agency, Air Land Sea Consultants. 

Thus, I have had experience as a brick and mortar core  member as well as a premium member and as an independent advisor.  I served as president of the Southwest chapter which encompassed Texas, Oklahoma, New Mexico and Arkansas.  When ASTA began bringing the chapters to the members, I was president of the Houston chapter.  I previously served as president of the Skal Club of Houston and the Caribbean Tourism Organization of Houston. 

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Northwest Regional Director Candidate

Contact Information

Name: Robert Hale
Title: Chief Operating Officer
Agency Name: Travel N Relax INC
E-mail: Robh@travelnrelax.com

Candidate Statement

I am honored to have the opportunity to ask for your consideration and vote in the upcoming election for the ASTA Northwest Regional Director and potential ASTA National Board of Directors seat.   


My career in travel began with my graduation from the University of Denver with a degree in Hotel, Restaurant, and Tourism Management. 

With this education, I took my first job with the Walt Disney World Resort, where, in 1992, I was privileged to begin working on the call center floor of the Walt Disney Travel Company, booking Walt Disney World Vacations for Travel Advisors and their clients.  

In 2004 I opened my own travel agency – Travel N Relax Inc. - which specializes in fully customized family and romance travel.  


In 2009 I was introduced to ASTA, quickly saw the organization's value, and joined.  

In 2010 the Rocky Mountain ASTA Chapter had an opening for Secretary which I applied for and was offered.   

A position for Chapter Vice President opened in 2011, which I moved into where I remained until I moved into the Chapter President's role in 2015.  

Having worked in various Chapter positions for the last thirteen years, with the last eight years as a Chapter President, I have learned the inner workings of the Chapter System and understand the time challenges and difficulties involved in the various chapter roles.   

I have also learned how to overcome a chapter's challenges, and I am eager to work with each Chapter President to help make your chapters thrive if they are not and further advance successful ones.  

I fully recognize that filling Lynda Phillippi's shoes will be difficult. Lynda has been phenomenal, and I will miss her deeply. However, I can promise that if elected, I will do my best to match the service Lynda is renowned for and work to provide each Chapter President the level of care and time each chapter deserves.   

I believe the ASTA organization is the best organization to represent us, and they proved that, especially during covid. ASTA's continued ability to provide solid legislative wins and strong media representation for our industry and individual businesses are among the many strengths ASTA can offer us as Travel Professionals.  

As the owner of a small family-owned and run boutique travel agency, I know the unique challenges that small business owners face. As a regional director and possible board member, I will work hard to advance the ASTA mission to benefit the chapters and our small business members.   

Our chapters are the cornerstone to reaching and connecting ASTA national with our members. For this reason, I will aim to think creatively to elevate the industry, draw in more members, and increase engagement within our chapters and ASTA.  

I will be open to your thoughts, ideas, and considerations on what is needed to improve your chapter and benefit your members. I will be your voice to present those ideas to ASTA leadership and educate them in the best ways they can work with us to benefit our chapters and our membership.   

I carry ASTA in my heart, which is why I commit so much of my time to it, and I am genuinely passionate about helping each chapter become the absolute best it can be. ASTA's future is bright, and our chapters will be the path to that future.   


Outside of my travel business, when I am not traveling, you will find me active in my church and my University of Denver communities. With both, I am involved in both growth and connectivity initiatives.  

My agency – Travel N Relax Inc- was developed out of my desire to create more unity in our world. When we can see beyond our differences to discover our many commonalities, unity within populations can arrive. Likewise, in my outside life, I always seek ways to connect people to bring more harmony and benefit to all parties.   

I also am active in both health and fitness activities. These activities help me reduce stress and develop more focus on my business and ASTA functions. They also serve as opportunities for my mind to create new ideas to help my business and the Rocky Mountain ASTA chapter flourish.    

If you are familiar with Walt and Roy Disney, Walt was the idea guy whose mind constantly popped out new ideas. Roy was the business mind who always focused on the practical details of the business. While I have a strong business side to my mind, I also have a solid "Walt" side that pops out ideas. If elected, I hope to use both sides to benefit you and bring value to your chapters.   

I appreciate your consideration of my candidacy for the Northwest Regional Director and possible National Board position. Please get in touch with me directly at RobH@Travelnrelax.com if you have any questions regarding my positions.   


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Southwest Regional Director Candidate

Contact Information

Name: Leila Dada
Title: Owner
Agency Name: Cruiseplanners/ Signature 
E-mail: ldada@cruiseplanners.com

Candidate Statement

To be a candidate as the South West Regional Director is chosen, I am asking for your support and vote for this position.

I have been fortunate to have been in this travel industry career for over 30 years and have learned so much, along with being patient and learning how to change my career path when I saw changes happening in our industry. 
This is when I decided to specialize and be certified in Selling Group Travel, Honeymoons & Weddings, & Cruise Line Specialist.

My career started off as an Intern working in a Full time Retail Travel Agency in Los Angeles, and here I had to learn how to order brochures, file them, then onto writing hand written airline tickets, and finally how to read the OAG for airline schedules, look up hotels in the Index guide book.

Yes, those were the days and look where we are today!

In 1987 moving to North Carolina gave me opportunities to expand my experiences in this industry and I was hired for several different roles.

Helped in marketing and expanding the travel agency business by joining - he local Chamber of Commerce, became an Ambassador. I helped with cutting ribbons of new businesses and in turn, presenting them with our agency services.

After reaching a management position at Belk Travel, my employer decided to have all of his employees to be Certified Travel Advisors. We signed up for the Travel Institute, 2 year program where upon the finI exam I received my CTC Certification ( Certified Travel Consultant).

I helped with training of new advisors and also was given my own Branch agency, an offshoot of Belk Travel, located in a Shopping Mall in Lumberton NC. My next career move was to San Francisco. I was hired to book large groups for the Shriners Organization Travels. Here I became an ASTA member. I learned the value of being part of ASTA . I did attend several Chapter meetings and enjoyed their educational program.

I have had opportunities to experience many roles which helped develop my business sales skills and I know will help Chapter Presidents in my SW Regions

Roles, Experiences, Certifications & Awards 

Escorted & organized Group Travel
Community College in Pasco WA Taught night classes, Basic 101 Selling Techniques for Cruise Lines

CTC accreditation Tourism Degree ( Certified Travel Consultant) Certified Cruise Consultant ( CUA) MCC ( Master Cruise Consultant)
ECC ( Elite Cruise Consultant)
Luxury Certified Consultant Aussie Specialist
Sandals Specialist
Event Planner Certification
Bechtel Employee Association Award to President ASTA Arizona Best Chapter Award
ASTA Arizona Best Chapter President Award

I moved to Arizona in 2011. I am actively involved in the continuation of Arizona ASTA Chapter's growth.  I am confident that I am able to help our Regional Chapter Presidents, whenever they are in need. I am there for them!
I have served almost all of the positions on our Arizona Chapter starting from the Members Chair position which I enjoyed very much since it gave me the opportunity to meet many advisors in our area. I was able to demonstrate the value of ASTA and its membership.
I served as Treasurer and did the required training for this position. It gave me a greater understanding of our Chapters Financial standing.
I continued on as Secretary, taking meeting minutes, sending out notices, finding places to have our meetings, and forwarding Hotel Contracts to ASTA Headquarters for review. I helped with the Fiesta in the Desert, an annual trade show. Getting a Vice President role was the beginning of the preparation for the President position. Part of my job was negotiating the prices for the events.

As a President of the AZ ASTA Chapter today, I feel all of these roles made me a better and stronger individual for a leadership position. Combining all those previous experiences and knowledge, I am sure I will be able to help and support any Chapter Presidents in my region.

The role of an ASTA Regional Director is to promote and advocate for the travel industry in their specific region,while also supporting the goals and initiatives of the larger organization. Some of my key priorities and objectives as a South West Regional Director would include:

  1. Encouraging and facilitating sustainable travel practices in the region.
  2. Building strong relationships with local businesses and tourism organizations to promote the region as a desirable travel destination.
  3. Advocating for policies and regulations that support the travel industry and its economic impact on the region.
  4. Providing educational and networking opportunities for travel professionals in the region to help them stay up-to-date on industry trends and best practices.

Ultimately, the vision of an ASTA Regional Director would be to create a thriving and sustainable travel industry in their region that provides economic benefits while also promoting responsible travel practices and preserving the natural and cultural resources that make the region unique.


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