This year’s ITAA conference, Bricks and Clicks, got underway at the Hotel Carmen in Granada, Spain, this morning with a welcome by Rafael Rodríguez, Andalucia Government Minister for Tourism, and by Gonzalo Ceballos, Director of the Spanish Tourism Office in Dublin, joint sponsors of the conference with the Andalucia Tourism Board, represented by Antonio Ales. Some 120 delegates are attending the conference, including 50 travel agents representing 28 travel agencies.
Clare Dunne, ITAA President, said: “I am absolutely delighted to welcome you all here to Granada in Andalucia. We are here to relax, to learn new things, and to remind ourselves of things we already know – and to take some time to take stock of our lives.”
“Later today we will be discussing heavy topics such as the NDC (New Distribution Capability) and VAT – a riveting subject (!) but one that is necessary to understand. We had 14 guinea pig agents around the country input into this afternoon’s presentation.
“I have been asked several times what our conference theme, Bricks and Clicks, actually means. Clicks – what is our digital strategy – will be explored by Graham Carroll, while Bricks is the fabrics of our business – the main one of which is YOU! – will be explored by Alf Dunbar.
Chairing the panel on NDC, John Galligan said: “The NDC is an initiative of IATA, which passed Resolution No. 787 (!) in October 2012. I did ask the ITAA what position it has adopted on NDC, and was told that it has yet to adopt a formal poiicy. This panel discussion aims to help develop one.”
Yanik Hoyles, IATA
Introducing the subject of the New Distribution Capability, Yanik Hoyles of IATA said: “When you are talking NDC it is about communication, communication and communication. NDC is about the modernisation of 40-year-old data exchange standards for ticket distribution that were developed before the Internet was invented.
NDC is an IATA-led collaborative industry initiative to define a messaging standard that will enable retailing opportunities through the indirect (GDS/travel agent) channel. Currently there is a gap between direct (airline websites) and indirect (GDS/travel agent) channels. This is due to the fact that airlines today use two different formats:
- Internet programing language (XML) through their websites – offering travel consumers an online experience similar in content and display to what they can find on retail websites
- Less flexible pre-Internet message protocol (EDIFACT and TELETYPE) when selling through the indirect channel (GDS/travel agent) which does not support personalisation and customisation.
Fergal Kelly, Travelport
Fergal Kelly, Travelport, said: “For airlines, ancillary revenue is key to future profitability and brand differentiation will be key, particularly to business and frequent travellers. For agents, productivity is essential and they need access to all airline content to remain competitive – and 85% of agents want to sell ancillaries. For consumers, access to relevant content is essential, as well as easy to compare information, and access to a travel agent who gives good advice.”
During the Q&A Valerie Metcalfe of FCm Travel Solutions, who has done much work on NDC, said: “For travel agents the issue of NDC all boils down to the cost of the new standard. It is also very important that the GDSs stay involved – we are already booking ancillaries through them, but for some we have to leave the GDS and link direct to the airline.”
Valerie expressed a number of concerns, including whether a request for a fare would be required if fares are no longer filed in the current way, and if an agent offered personalised shopping would an airline offer a higher fare if it knows that the client is a business traveller or frequent flyer?
Wrapping up the session, John Galligan noted: “It is reassuring to hear that the indirect travel agency distribution channel still accounts for 50% of airline bookings by volume and 60% by value.”