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ARTA Makes Effort to Put Association Back on the Map

January 29, 2007 By: Joe Pike Travel Agent

The Association of Retail Travel Agents (ARTA) recently announced the launch of an initiative to develop a new travel agency identification and registration program to provide both travel agencies and travel suppliers with clearer recognition of the travel agency distribution channel and its participants. Barry Richcreek

ARTA Chairman Barry Richcreek says the efforts, which began
at a board meeting in November of last year, are part of an attempt to put the
association back on the map.

"There is no doubt that we faded off the scope so to
speak," Richcreek says. "We are bringing it back into a time where
agents are running it."

Before the official announcement on January 17, ARTA took
into account feedback from travel suppliers who said the agency sales
environment was becoming so varied and robust that suppliers were finding it
difficult to identify the most productive and cost-effective way to sell
travel, i.e., they needed a clearer path to find productive agents and other
contacts with whom they could work.

In addition, travel suppliers and travel agencies are
concerned about the growing number of benefit seekers who have plagued the
industry for years, he says. The new program will weed out the agents who are
in the industry just for the perks, as opposed to those who have respected
credentials, Richcreek says.

"We have changed around quite a bit," he says.
"We were under the management structure and now we have agents running the
association again, which is really what works, what we need."

ARTA, recognizing the importance of a more intimate and
identifiable relationship between professional travel sellers and travel
suppliers, approved a plan at its board meeting in San Francisco to re-engineer
a travel agency identification system that aims to meet today's needs and

The travel agency association-managed program contains two
core elements. The T-Number is a revised numbering plan to provide non-Airlines
Reporting Corporation (ARC)/non-International Air Transport Association-Billing
Settlement Plans (IATA-BSP) agencies with a new multi-character agency code
number to better reflect the growth and nature of agencies that do not
participate in an airline settlement plan and do not directly issue airline
tickets on standard industry ticket stock or in e-ticket form.

The ARC and agencies accredited by the IATA-BSP—a
partnership between the IATA and General Sales Agents (GSA)—are not affected by
the new program.

The Transportation Safety Institute (TSI) and the Travel
Industry Designator System (TIDS) agencies will be invited to migrate from the
current IATA-managed program.

The second element, Travel Retailer Identification Program
(TRIP), is a new travel agent identification system to provide enhanced
recognition of the growth of professional sellers of travel beyond the legacy
structure of the existing designation and requirements developed by IATA and
its member air carriers.

ARTA will be meeting with key travel suppliers beginning in
February to outline the program, and travel agency groups will soon be invited
to participate in structuring the non-profit organization to operate the

A presentation about the new program will be a highlight of
the council's meeting with travel suppliers in the coming months.

Founded in 1963, the Association of Retail Travel Agents is
the largest non-profit association in North America
that represents travel agents exclusively. It is headquartered in Scottsdale, AZ.

The new ARTA program, which Richcreek hopes will provide an
adrenaline shot into the association, comes on the heels of the American
Society of Travel Agents' (ASTA) recent unveiling of its new membership and
fees structure.

The timing is not a coincidence, says Bill Maloney, ASTA,
COO. "You can pick any point in time since September 11 where someone was
doing something to change, to improve," Maloney says. "I don't want
to speak for ARTA, but to stay relevant to the market, you have to change
because the customers continue to change and travel agent organizations to have
to stay on top of that."

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