The annual ASTA Global Convention took place in Chicago, Illinois August 23rd – 25th, 2021. It was ASTA’s first in-person US-based conference since 2019. (ASTA recently held a twice-rescheduled Destination Expo in Dubrovnik, Croatia earlier this year in June.)

ASTA Portugal, led by American travel specialist, Sheree M. Mitchell, was invited to close the event with an inspiring keynote delivered in a TED-style talk format. During the segment, titled “Pivot to Prosperity”, Mitchell shared a very personal and candid account of what she did to “keep the dream of travel alive” in Portugal during the most difficult moments of the pandemic for the travel and tourism industry. Mitchell stated, “I felt that it was our responsibility as travel professionals to stay optimistic and visible so that our clients would have something to look forward to on the other side of this global disaster.”

In Portugal for Mitchell that meant an ambitious two-week solo cross country road trip during the summer of 2020 where she, with the help of a well-known US-based travel media outlet, reported on the behind-the-scenes reality as hotels, restaurants, and tourist attractions reopened for the first time in months.

Mitchell also shared what she did to keep her boutique tour operator, Immersa Global, relevant and top of mind during the 14 months that borders were closed between the European Union and the United States, ASTA’s home base and Immersa Global’s primary source market. She also touched on more global issues that included the need for increased awareness of sustainability, inclusivity, and the importance of community as the industry begins its long recovery process.

Mitchell closed the event by challenging her peers to do the following: “Have Courage – Always find the courage to do anything that is important to you.”

“Invest in Yourself – Make your personal and professional growth a top priority.”

“Think and Act Sustainably – There are small things that we can all do each day to make our communities and world a better place for all.”

Her parting words were: “Join me as we get ready to rebuild our industry. Together.”

ASTA recently appointed Mitchell to start and lead their brand-new international chapter in Portugal earlier this year. Mitchell is the president & founder of the upscale inbound tour operator and destination management company, Immersa Global. She has over 15 years of experience designing international travel for the affluent consumer market in the US and is often engaged to provide insight for international media as well as industry conferences, trade shows, and publications. Mitchell currently lives in Portugal, but travels extensively for work.

ASTA is the leading US-based advocate for travel advisors, the industry, and the traveling public. Its members represent 80 percent of all travel sold in the United States through the travel agency distribution channel. ASTA was founded in New York City in 1931 and currently has 27 international chapters around the world.