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.
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 objectives.
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 program.
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
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."