From ongoing changes in technology to the role of travel agents in the distribution chain, there’s plenty of topics on the minds of Canada’s agency owners these days.
Providing an opportunity to discuss these items and more, the Association of Canadian Travel Agencies (ACTA) welcomed agency owners and travel partners to its first annual Travel Industry Leadership Summit, a full-day session held in Toronto yesterday (Nov. 19).
According to ACTA President Wendy Paradis, the concept for the summit originated in a recent survey of agency owners, which polled them on their latest industry concerns.
“We wanted to have a discussion with them and our travel partners about how to move the industry forward together,” Paradis told PAX. “Last year we did a really in-depth member survey and one-on-one collaboration – one of the questions we asked was ‘what’s keeping you up at night?’ What we found was the same three or four topics were reported across the country. With that information, we wanted to delve into this and thought to bring all of these leaders together.”
A look at the agenda
Sessions covered the following topics:
- The navigation of new technology and the subsequent ‘disruption’ of traditional industry booking channels. When it comes to technology, Paradis said that agencies’ biggest concerns centre around the areas of cost, content and operations.
- A look at the future of the International Air Transport Association’s (IATA) New Distribution Capability (NDC) and its potential impact on travel agent commissions. With the concept still being rolled out – IATA has previously stated that it aims to have 20 airlines enrolled in the program by the end of 2020 – Paradis said, “The verdict is still out – people got more information but they’re still waiting to see whether the impact will be positive or negative for the travel industry.”
- An update from Boeing regarding the future of the MAX 8 aircraft program. While the aircraft manufacturer declined to go on record with specific details of the presentation, due to ongoing discussions with federal aviation regulators around the world, agents were updated on changes to the MAX 8 program (some details of which were previously posted on Boeing’s website), followed by a Q & A session.
- A panel discussion of travel industry insiders regarding multi-level distribution strategies.
Paradis also presented ACTA’s priorities for agency leaders heading into 2020. Among the highlights are:
- Among agency owners surveyed around the world, the top concerns in terms of external issues affecting the travel industry heading into 2020 are the impact of geopolitics (from Brexit to the current political situation in the U.S.); the state of Boeing’s MAX 8 program; over-tourism; and the rising number of environmental catastrophes, from hurricanes to wildfires.
- Within the industry, agencies continue to monitor the rise of non-commissionable fees; direct booking approaches by suppliers; lack of transparency in fees; and air travel matters such as IATA debit memos;
- Particular to the Canadian market, key trends for 2020 include the growing number of home-based/remote agents; rapid technological change; consumer protection; specialization of agents in niche travel markets; and agency mergers and acquisitions.
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