A call for unity among Travel Agents Associations worldwide reverberated across the auditorium as the 4th Summit of Travel Agents Association came to an end at the Science Museum of the City of Arts and Sciences in Valencia Spain.

The Presidents and CEOS’s Open Dialogue session saw speaker after another call for a united front as the industry goes through one of its most challenging periods in history. “Travel agents must now shift focus to value addition to our travelling customers to ensure that we are providing them with professional services and duty of care as is demanded of us” said Otto De Vries, CEO of the Association of South Africa Travel Agents (ASATA).

Delegates noted that there had been a decline in IATA accreditation yet statistics showed that the number of travellers was rapidly increasing. “The IATA programme may become history in the next few years, if fundamental changes are not made on the programme to address concerns of travel agents”, noted a speaker.  “There are some things that do not make sense at all for example IATA requires us to place a guarantee to protect airlines against  defaults but does not demand the same from Airlines, which  are increasingly collapsing leaving agents with heavy debts”

Turning to the payment systems, the Travel Agents representatives wondered why despite the payment revolutionary happening across the world, IATA was still adamant on retaining restrictions on the use of cash and credit cards.

On distribution, it was generally agreed that even though the distribution channel will continue to exist in the future, it will not be in the current format. Participants called for the “blowing up of the distribution network and reinventing a value chain that will involve all stakeholders as partners. We should not see the tree and miss the forest even with the coming of NDC.”

Participants were advised to challenge policies and decisions made by IATA that contravened local laws or adversely affected their members. The Spanish Association spoke of their decision to take IATA to court on behalf of one of their members to challenge an unfavourable provision in their local financial criteria.  

It was reported that after many years of lobbying, the IATA Passenger Agency Conference (PaConf) will for the first time in 40 years have an open conversation with Travel Agents at its next meeting. This was cited as another case of an injustice where travel agents were locked out of an important forum that sits to make decisions that directly affects them. 

In order to build cohesiveness and amplify the voice of travel agents on global matters, the CEO of KATA Nicanor Sabula challenged the global travel agency associations to closely collaborate, engage frequently and develop common positions on matters that affect travel agencies.  “There is need to build knowledge and capacity of the travel agents through education and training on the IATA Handbook. “The voluminous Travel Agents Handbook needs to be simplified as it intimidates and almost coerces agents into submission” he observed.

The 4th Summit of Travel Agencies Association was hosted by the Spanish Travel Agents Association (CEAV) from 1-3 November 2017 in Valencia and brought together close to 200 participants drawn from the travel industry.

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