The Association of Retail Travel Agents (ARTA) will introduce a comprehensive, travel skills-oriented web-based training program next year. The program will feature a live instructor for prospective travel agents, new-comers or those wishing to enhance their travel service skills.
ARTA said each industry module will be sponsored by a member of ARTA's Supplier Council. At the end of the program, participants will take an online test and qualify for the ARTA Travel Agent Skills Certificate (TASC). The training program will begin in the second quarter of 2012.
Announced at ARTA's recent Board of Directors meeting, the new program reflects the Board's concern that the number of persons entering the travel agent profession was not only dwindling that those coming into the industry had few resources to enhance their travel skills knowledge and proficiency, ARTA said.
"Travel training options were either too few in number, excessively expensive, or simply no longer focused on specific industry segments," ARTA said. "While there is a wealth of general office skills training, software training, and customer service training, there is a severe shortage of single-source air, car, hotel, cruise, tour, consolidator, ARC, and other travel specific training components."
ARTA also announced a 90-day free trial membership to encourage agents and agencies to experience the benefits of belonging to ARTA.
ARTA also affirmed its continued support for several industry initiatives:
ARTA said it will continue its founding member role in the Global Alliance of Travel Agent Associations (GATAA). The next GATAA meeting is planned for Vienna, Austria in February 2012.
ARTA will also continue its support for the Open AXIS Group and the related Take Travel Forward initiative. The move will help assure that travel agents have access to emerging technology and alternative distribution platforms planned by the airline industry, ARTA said.
ARTA's board also expressed concern that U.S. travel agents participating in ARC are at a distinct disadvantage compared to travel agents in other countries which are IATA-accredited and participate in an IATA Billing and Settlement Plan.
"A key difference is the role of the IATA Travel Agency Commissioner, which can adjudicate disputes involving one or more airlines which seek to terminate an agent's authority to issue tickets," ARTA said.
"ARTA feels that ARC has not done enough to align the very same airlines which participate in both ARC and IATA to assure that due process in maintaining a sales agreement is identical outside the USA and in the USA," ARTA said. "Today, the ARC Travel Agent Arbiter does not rule on matters when an airline terminates a travel agency for alleged infractions," ARTA said. ARTA will ask ARC to address the matter as part of ARC's modernization efforts.
ARTA's board also approved an increase for individual membership in ARTA beginning in 2012. The current fee of $75.00 annually has not been increased in over 10 years, ARTA said. The new fee, effective January 10, 2012 will be $99.00 annually.
Existing ARTA members (and those agents applying for new membership) who renew/join ARTA before January 10, 2012 will be able to benefit from the lower $75.00 fee. Early renewal will allow any remaining membership months to be carried over into 2013, ARTA said.
ARTA said that the fee increase is the result of escalating costs to service memberships and will help provide more automated services and new programs.