The travel industry is chock-full of widely used acronyms that can seem intimidating for some new entrants. To help with that, TMR has put together a short guide to some of the more commonly used ones for new agents, and even veteran agents, to inform themselves.
Here are just some of those acronyms—and their definitions—for those too afraid to ask.
ARC – Airlines Reporting Corp.
ARC is a settlement service provider for airlines and travel agencies, settling more than $97 billion in transactions annually. It is the transaction link between agencies, whether corporate or leisure and individual airlines. It also serves as an accreditor for travel agencies who use GDSs (see below) to book tickets.
ARC also provides an incredible amount of data on those ticket sales—some look at its industry role now as more of a data provider than an accreditor for travel agencies. Its wealth of data includes monthly ticket sales, airline pricing trends, and much more.
ACTA – The Association of Canadian Travel Agencies
Founded in 1977, ACTA is a Canadian member-based trade association that represents the retail travel sector of Canada’s tourism industry. Its membership includes over 12,000 agents, which ACTA says represents more than 80% of the travel business booked through an agency in that country.
ACTA says its mission comes in four parts—advocate for agents and agency owners to the Canadian government; educate its members through training and certification; promote the use of a travel agency to consumers; and connect its members with the information, contacts, and programs, they need.
ASTA – The American Society of Travel Advisors
ASTA is the most important trade association working with lawmakers in Washington D.C. for U.S.-based travel advisors. According to ASTA, which says it is the largest association of travel professionals in the world, members include not only travel advisors but also the companies whose products they sell such as tours, cruises, hotels, car rentals, and more.
ASTA has played a central role for years in helping shape legislation that will affect travel advisor and travel agency owner business, including laws governing independent contractors and governmental programs during the COVID-19 pandemic. The association also serves as the agency and advisor voice for consumer issues that impact the industry, including things like the COVID-19 inbound testing requirement for Americans.
BDM – Business Development Manager
BDMs are typically representatives from travel suppliers who can support travel advisors’ business by helping them solve problems, providing them with the sales and marketing they need, and helping them stay informed about the latest product offerings. Suppliers will have BDMs for advisors depending on the location of an agency, or even depending on its connection to a host or consortia.
Good BDMs are considered extensions of the advisors’ business, helping them brainstorm ideas to communicate and sell their products. Some exceptional BDMs see the relationship between them and the advisor as a partnership—the better that an advisor does, the better the BDM does, too.
CLIA – Cruise Lines International Association
CLIA is the association for stakeholders involved in the world of cruising, from cruise lines to travel advisors selling their products. CLIA calls itself the world's largest cruise industry trade association and says its mission is to provide “a unified voice and leading authority of the global cruise community.”
According to the most recent numbers, CLIA represents 95% of the world’s ocean-going cruise capacity, along with 54,000 advisors and 15,000 of travel agencies globally. Its mission is to foster “members' success by advocating, educating and promoting the common interests of the cruise community.”
DMC – Destination Management Company
A DMC is a professional service company that has the local knowledge and connections that advisors need in order to book the best travel possible for their clients. A DMC can help advisors coordinate transfers, tours, excursions, and much more for their clients, and can step in locally should something go wrong during travel.
FAM – Familiarization Trip
FAM Trips are trips exclusively for travel advisors, provided either for free or at a discount by suppliers, that can be used to become familiar with products they will be selling. Sometimes the trips will be filled with only travel advisors, and other times suppliers will offer advisors the chance to get on a trip with consumers.
Some suppliers will publicize FAM trips through their networks, while others will work with advisors on an individual basis to get them FAM rates.
FIT – Flexible Independent Travel
Throughout the years, FIT has meant different things to different people, including Foreign Independent Tour or Free Independent Travel, or Fully Independent Travel, but the general definition is typically a trip that is designed and packaged by a travel advisor for a single client or group who is traveling on their own.
FITs will include some form of travel (airplane, train, ship, etc.) to a destination where guests will stay (hotels or short-term rentals) and experience the sites and local cultures (tours or tickets to attractions). The travel advisor’s job, sometimes with help from a tour operator who specializes in this kind of travel, is to build that trip for their client, whether it is a solo traveler or a group.
It’s a lot of planning on the travel advisor’s part because of all the independent components and customization, but it is an opportunity to show their worth to their client.
FTC (or FCC) – Future Travel Credits
Future Travel Credits, Future Tour Credits, or Future Cruise Credits (FCC), are credits that travel suppliers (tour operators, cruise lines, airlines, etc.) pass to travelers should their travel be canceled or impacted by things out of their control. The credits can typically be applied towards future bookings.
For instance, after supply-chain issues forced a delay of Norwegian Cruise Line’s newest ship, the line offered all affected guests a future cruise credit to use on any Norwegian sailing. The cruise line did the same with a slate of cancellations earlier this year, offering guests the option to take a full refund in cash, or receive a higher-valued future cruise credit.
Travel suppliers leaned heavily into future travel credits, sometimes with an increase in value (115% worth of the original booking, for example), during the heavy cancellation period in the earlier stages of the COVID-19 pandemic.
GDS – Global Distribution System
A GDS is a computerized system that travel advisors and travel agencies use to make reservations for airlines, hotels, rental cars, and more. It’s essentially the middleman between providers (airlines for example) and advisors who need to see and book the inventory. While its use by advisors has shifted over the past decade or so, many agencies around the world still use GDSs daily to make reservations and to see inventory for thousands of travel providers.
There are many GDS providers, but some of the main ones advisors should be aware of are Amadeus, Sabre, Travelport, Apollo, and Galileo.
IATA – International Air Transport Association
IATA is a trade association that represents 290 airlines or 83% of the total air traffic. According to IATA, “we support many areas of aviation activity and help formulate industry policy on critical aviation issues.
For travel advisors, IATA provides accreditation—“a seal of approval recognized worldwide,” it says—that allows advisors to sell international or domestic tickets on behalf of IATA member airlines. IATA membership allows agents to not only book with airlines and other suppliers who also recognized IATA membership, but also get discounts on their own personal trips or apply for FAM trips with some others.
IC – Independent Contractor
The general definition of an IC, according to the IRS, is someone who is self-employed, “who are in an independent trade, business, or professional in which they offer their services to the general public.”
In the travel industry, independent contractors are generally selling travel on their own and booking it on behalf of their clients though they will most likely be affiliated with a host agency that provides resources like connections to suppliers, payment processing, and training.
While the IC is not an employee of the host, the resources it gets are crucial to its success.
The last decade has seen a significant shift in the travel advisor industry, with more and more agents categorizing themselves as ICs rather than employees of agencies. That has come just as the advent of remote work has made home-based agents more and more common.
NCF – Non-Commissionable Fees
An NCF is a charge to a travel advisor’s client that travel advisors do not earn a commission on. The fees are typically built into a booking by the supplier, and appear on the invoice to the traveler, but advisors are unable to make any money on them, which has historically made them a big pain point for advisors.
In some instances, the fees are things like port charges, government taxes, and other fees that suppliers add to a booking. Other times it could be staff gratuities or something completely mysterious that consumers or advisors need to clarify with the supplier.
Some suppliers have moved in recent years to ditch NCFs completely, which has earned them applause from advisors for their partnership and from consumers for their transparency.