ARTA's Planned TRIP ID Card Offers Another Option to Industry

ARTA's naming of industry veteran Bruce Bishins to direct its TRIP agent identification program once again raises questions about the cost-effectiveness and value of agency ID cards, and whether a new ID card and accreditation system might be needed. ARTA's Travel Retailer Identification Program, or TRIP, calls for the creation of an industry-managed nonprofit corporation to establish a "more effective and useful system of proving recognition and credentials to accredited travel retailers." This would produce a new ID card that could challenge CLIA and IATA cards.

In addition to the ID card, TRIP--which was formed a year ago--offers a Accredited Travel Retailer (ATR) designation for non-ARC, non-BSP reporting agencies. Both elements of TRIP are based on the "highest standards of travel industry experience," ARTA said. This includes education, business organization and finance.

It is not yet known whether ARTA's initiative will gain widespread support from travel agents, host agencies or suppliers, or what impact a new system might have on IATA and CLIA. Furthermore, questions remain unanswered about how much the system will cost, who will pay for it and the technology it requires. Equally serious are questions about TRIP's relevance to the new dynamics of retail distribution, increasingly dominated by independent agents who work part time, and whether TRIP can do anything to check the growth of card mills or multi-level marketing plans that many travel agents are hostile to.

"TRIP will set rigorous, but attainable, benchmarks to assure that legitimate sellers of travel are recognized by all sectors of the travel industry and that traveler sellers will be better positioned to allocate marketing resources earmarked for the travel agency community," ARTA said.

Fred Miller, the highly respected vice president of travel industry relations for Marriott International, supports ARTA's TRIP initiative. "Marriott has long desired revamping and strengthening the accreditation and credentials system to better identify legitimate travel retailers in a very crowded and oft-blurred travel agency distribution channel," Miller said in a statement. "We've looked at TRIP carefully and have given our input. With the right leadership and follow-through, TRIP has the potential of becoming the definitive program to address these issues and bring resolution to our concerns. Bruce is a very capable, knowledgeable and experienced individual, and we have every confidence he is the right man to take the TRIP initiative forward."

ARTA chairman Barry Richcreek said. "Much has happened in our industry regarding card mills, MLMs and travel agent accreditation," he said. "After a year of fine-tuning TRIP, we're ready to hand off a solid program to TRIP's incoming board. This will assure the industry of a workable, efficient and meaningful travel retailer credentials system."

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