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ASEAN agents to face off with IATA:
First meet on regional level will thrash out thorny issues
Pauline Tan, Langkawi

Pauline Tan, Langkawi  
(25th Jan 2005)

ASEAN agents will meet with IATA within the next two months in Singapore to thrash out solutions on bread-and-butter issues.

IATA Asia-Pacific regional director, Mr C S Kong, who was invited to attend the Federation of ASEAN Travel Agents (FATA) board meeting on Monday, said: “I can definitely see value in meeting at a regional level to tackle common problems, so everyone can share best practices.

“Agents feel airlines are marginalising them via electronic ticketing and other means. But IATA feels this is not the case. Ultimately, it is about what value the agents can bring to the table.”

In a presentation to agents on Monday, Mr Kong said globally, IATA-accredited agencies had fallen to 80,000, from 88,000. He said this showed consumers' increasing willingness to use other channels. However, the number of Asian agents (about 10,000) has not fallen. Mr Kong said this meant agents in the region still had a chance to ensure their survival by adding value.

But FATA members interviewed dismissed Mr Kong's replies to their concerns as “formula” answers, and hoped the coming regional meeting would see real progress made on the issues.

FATA immediate past president and Philippine Travel Agencies Association (PTAA) president, Mr Marciano Ragaza, said top priorities Philippine agents would want addressed at the regional meeting were uneven standards in the application of bank guarantees and the simplification of airfare pricing policies.

New FATA president and National Association of Travel Agents Singapore (NATAS) president, Mr William Tan, said: “We hope a regular meeting at this level can be held yearly and it could strengthen the role of FATA. For Singapore agents, we'd like our meeting with IATA to address why certain IATA airlines are being allowed to make separate bank guarantee arrangements with certain agents rather than applying the standard across the board.”

NATAS ex officio, Mr Lee Liat Cheng, suggested IATA to consider issuing its own credit card for agents to use against payment to airlines. Mr Kong said: “We are not a financial institution, although it's true we serve as a clearing house for US$16 billion in ticket sales per year. Maybe it's not too far fetched an idea, as IATA is still soul-searching over its functions, but don't hold your breath for this to happen.”

Mr Ragaza said: “Airlines should value that we are pushing their products to the market. We are still doing a lot for them, and the problem is, they do not want to assume any of the risks.”

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