ASTA’s International Destination Expo brought 1,200 ASTA members to Istanbul, Turkey. Some 100 travel agencies can’t join the expo because of the unexpected eruption of Mt. Eyjafjallajokul in Iceland.

asta2010-chrisrussoASTA President Chris Russo announced that a specialized education program will be launched in Turkey for travel agents. Russo said in Istanbul that as their corporate social responsibility ASTA continuously organizes education programs for agents. “We will start ‘Turkey Specialist Course’ in May so that our agents can become a Turkey specialist and have information about sale points.

Turkish Ministry of Culture and Tourism hosted the opening Gala Night at 1700 year-old Binbirdirek Cistern. ASTA members enjoyed their dinner in a unique venue which is the second-largest covered Byzantine cistern in Istanbul. This 1,700 year-old structure is impressive with 212 large stone columns throughout the venue. ASTA’s IDE 2010 was kicked off with delicious food and local entertainment in this ancient structure, which once served as a water collection facility, and embodies Istanbul’s rich history.

Speaking at the night, Turkish Culture and Tourism Ministry Undersecretary Ismet Yilmaz said that initially ministry targets to increase number of American tourists visiting Turkey from 700 thousand to over 1 million tourists.

Beside the certification sessions and product seminars, countries, agents, hotels, associations exhibited their product and services at stands. Istanbul Convention and Exhibition Center hosted ASTA’s 2010 IDE between 19-22 April.

Puerto Rico, which will welcome ASTA members for ASTA’s Sixth Annual International Destination Expo in April 14-17, 2011, hosted IDE 2011 Dinner in Istanbul at Four Seasons Hotel on April 21.