An upstart international association of travel agent groups plans to go directly to airlines for one-to-one discussions on improving distribution and agency pay – bypassing IATA, ARC and GDS “middlemen.”
The direct approach planned by the new Global Alliance of Travel Agent Associations (GATAA) is in contrast to the route taken by the World Travel Agents Associations Alliance (WTAAA), which is asking to meet with IATA on its new distribution standards.
GATAA, the new global group, is in the process of putting together a 25-page plan to modernize the air travel market and eliminate non-essential costs in the agent/airline relationship, according to its organizers.
“GATAA plans to carve out relationships that involve a supplier-direct approach, rather than through time-consuming, endless interaction with ‘middlemen’ who have their own stake in the proceedings,” director and president Bruce Bishins, CTC, told Travel Market Report.
“We want to have discourse that involves the principals – not spokespersons, which involve layers of inaction,” said Bishins, who is also managing director of ARTA.
Nine international travel agent organizations, all former members of the United Federation of Travel Agents Associations (UFTAA), came together recently to form GATAA in the belief that the direct approach to improving distribution and agency remuneration will get better, quicker results.
A contrast in strategy
Bishins contrasted the new group’s direct strategy with the two other international agent groups’ strategy of engaging with IATA, the Airlines Reporting Corp., bank settlement plans and GDSs – what he called “middlemen.”
WTAAA, which includes ASTA and the Association of Canadian Travel Agencies, recently asked IATA to include representatives of the agency channel on committees and task forces related to its “new distribution capability.” (See “Global Agency Group Seeks Voice in IATA’s ‘New Distribution’ Vision,” July 2, 2012, and “IATA Plans ‘New Alternatives’ to Current Distribution Technology,” June 25, 2010.)
Dialogue on remuneration
Bishins won’t disclose GATAA’s 25-page plan to the trade media. “We will approach individual carriers for cooperation. It wouldn't serve us well to elaborate in the press,” he said, noting that GATAA is still refining its strategy.
However, he said, “remuneration is one of the areas that needs new dialogue. Suppliers (mostly airlines) will not go back to base commissions.”
Agency incentives, increased productivity and getting rid of unnecessary administrative costs will enable travel sellers and travel suppliers to devise a distribution and pay structure that will benefit each side, GATAA believes.
New advocacy resource for agents
The new group also announced that it will create an Advocacy Assistance Panel to help members favorably resolve their cases before the IATA Travel Agency Commissioner and ARC’s travel agent arbiter.
“We will tap into a network of agents skilled in this area who have extensive experience winning their own respective cases,” said Bishins. He added that revisions to the ARC agency agreement and IATA resolutions “prompt much needed work in this area.”