On October 18, 1963, ARTA was officially incorporated as a nonprofit trade association. Michael Flynn, owner of World Wide Travel of Gary, Indiana was selected to serve as the first-ever president.
To maintain the focus upon which the organization was founded, the leadership voted that the association's membership would be comprised only of retail travel agents. Hotels, wholesalers, tour operators, “steamship” lines, airlines, and “car hire” companies were excluded from membership so that ARTA could concentrate exclusively on the issues and concerns of retail travel agents.
Today, ARTA remains the largest association that admits only travel agents as members. ARTA's policies are grounded in the determination that small and medium sized agencies must, and can, remain a viable component of the travel industry sales channel, regardless of the competitive pressures. Its close affiliate is ARTA Canada.
ARTA performs a variety of functions to further the interests of its membership, with particular emphasis in the areas of education and training and participation on international industry committees. Those efforts have been led by:
1963 - 1966 Michael Flynn, President
1966 - 1968 Mort Kauffman, Executive Director
1968 - 1989 Ron Santana, President and Chief Executive Officer
1990 - 1994 Paul Bessel, President
1994 - 1996 Lauraday Kelley, CTC, MCC, President
1996 - 2006 John Hawks, APR, President
1996 - 2001 Lynn Hayes, CTC, Chairwoman
2002 - 2007 Nancy Linares, CTC, Chairwoman
2007 - 2008 Barry Richcreek, CTC, Chairman
2009 Lynn Hayes, CTC, Chairwoman
2010 Sally Watkins, CTC, Chairwoman
2011 - 2021 Nancy Linares, CTC, Chairwoman
2022 - Present Gordon Macaw, MA, BSBA, Chairman