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Tue 28 Oct 2008 05:06 PM

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What a difference camaraderie makes

Agent association achievements in other countries prove there's strength in numbers, says Gemma Greenwood.

Time and time again I've written articles promoting the benefits of regulating the travel industry in the UAE, particularly in Dubai.

I've commended the efforts of both the Abu Dhabi Travel and Tour Agents Committee (ATTAC) and the Dubai Travel and Tour Agents Group (DTTAG).

I've also lamented the unwillingness of some agencies to be part of these bodies due to their selfishness and unfounded mistrust, but little has changed.

However, I am more than happy to reiterate my opinions whenever the opportunity arises.

It therefore pleased me when I recently had in-depth discussions with both the Travel Agents Federation of India (TAFI) and the Association of South African Travel Agents (ASATA).

I talked to the leaders of both about the challenges they were facing in their respective markets.

They were virtually the same as in the Middle East - staff retention, the global economic crisis the threat of the internet, but primarily, the impact of airline commission cuts on the travel trade.

What interested the most, however, was the way in which the agents in these markets joined forces to fight their battles collectively.

In India where the three major carriers - Air India, Jet Airways and Kingfisher - are poised to slash commission to zero, TAFI is lobbying the government and one agent in Calcutta, on behalf of all other agents in the country, is taking the airlines to court over their actions.

The agents has filed an injunction against the airlines, referring to the passenger sales agency agreement, IATA resolution 824, section 9, which stresses that airlines much provide adequate remuneration to their agent partners.

In South Africa, it's a similar story. When earlier this year Emirates Airline threatened to axe commission to zero the nation's agents clubbed together and all but boycotted the carrier.

As a result, Emirates made the landmark decision to reinstate agent commissions.

This is an example of what can be achieved if agents take the time and effort so collaborate and face their challenges head on.

Agencies in this part of the world should take a leaf out of their book and become members of their local agency bodies in order to create a force to be reckoned with.

Only then will the industry move forward, mature and become truly professional.

Gemma Greenwood is the senior group editor of ITP Business' travel & hospitality magazines.

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