ITAA members challenge Commissioner for Aviation Regulation at 2017 Annual Conference
The 2017 Irish Travel Agents Association (ITAA) Annual Conference, titled “On The Horizon”, took place in Porto, Portugal, today. Over 120 travel professionals attended the conference which discussed matters including airlines, regulatory updates and travel trade consumer protection measures.
Cormac Meehan, President of the ITAA, opened the conference, commenting “Every day brings new social, political, environmental challenges for Irish travel agents. Our strength lies in our capacity to recognise and confront these challenges.”
The most high profile session of today’s conference focused on the reform of the Traveller Protection Fund with Cathy Mannion, Commissioner for Aviation Regulation, as she discussed the options around the reform of the fund, referencing the recent collapses of Lowcostholidays and Failte Holidays.
The ITAA has repeatedly called on the government to review the legislation around bonding among travel providers in Ireland. Following the collapse of Lowcostholidays last summer, almost 4,200 Irish customers made claims to the Commission for Aviation Regulation (CAR) amounting to €3.8m.These claims depleted the Travellers’ Protection Fund, which is made up of contributions from tour operators and administered by the commission, by 75% as Lowcostholidays’ bonding level was underprovided.
The Commisioner spoke on a number of options for reform before engaging in a panel discussion on the Traveller Protection Fund with Angela Walsh (CTM), Paul Hackett (ClickandGo) and Pat Dawson (CEO of ITAA), moderated by Eoghan Corry, Editor of Travel Extra.
During this discussion the Commissioner informed delegates that the Lowcostholidays collapse is still under review and ITAA will be updated once CAR receive clarity on the matter. When questioned on what changes she had made since the collapse, the Commisioner said CAR had reviewed its “financial monitoring processes, internal processes and application processes to review the burden on travel agents while still being able to stand over licenses.”
Pat Dawson, CEO of the ITAA, put forward the ITAA’s suggestion to put a 50c or €1 levy on every traveller leaving the country to protect consumers “as at the moment only 15% of travellers are protected” but the Commissioner made it clear that airlines and bed banks could not be included in this reform.
The Commissioner ended the discussion by reassuring delegates of her commitment to reforming the fund and the Package Travel Directive, “In conversation with the Department, CAR is preparing a paper on the Package Travel Directive and are working with the trade to represent their views clearly.”
The conference meeting also included a session on ‘Air Matters’ introduced by Valerie Metcalfe (FCM Solutions) with Michel De Blust, Secretary General of the European Travel Agents and Tour Operators Association (ECTAA), and Svend Leirvaag, Vice President Industry Affairs in Amadeus. As part of this session New Distribution Capability (NDC) was discussed with Svend Leirvaag making the point that “With just three global airline alliances controlling 60% of global traffic, industry standards are being set by a minority.” He recommended that agents start making demands and enquiries to the International Air Transport Association (IATA) so that the NDC is not “aviation-centric”. While Michel de Blust reassured ITAA members that ECTAA is lobbying the IATA to see what is acceptable under new New Gen ISS and to ensure that all travel agents, through ITAA, are aware of all suggested changes.
Anne Dolan led a session on ‘Regulatory Matters’ with Andrew McCarroll from AIB Merchant Services and Brian O’Mara of O’Leary’s Insurances Ltd. Anne gave an update on the Payment Services Directive and the Package Travel Directive, while Andrew McCarroll, who heads up AIB’s PCI Department informed delegates on PCI, which is a requirement of all IATA licensed agents by 1st March 2018. Brian O’Mara of O’Leary’s Insurances Ltd spoke on General Data Protection Regulations (GDPR) changes which come into effect on 25th May 2018
Cormac Meehan ended the conference “This has been the most productive business days for the ITAA in a long time. As the Commissioner pointed out, the options for the Traveller Protection Fund reform outlined today are not the only solutions – the solutions have to come from within the trade. The ITAA are in the process of finalising it’s submission to the CAR consultation document and we are confident that it will provide creative and practical recommendations that will assist in the development of a framework for the continued and enhanced protection of all the travelling public.”
He added, “As an important tourism partner, this conference has also given our members the opportunity to discover more about the stunning country of Portugal and to experience the beautiful and historic city of Porto.”
Filipe Silva, Board Member of the Portuguese National Tourist Office, spoke on the similarity between Portugal and Ireland and commented, “It is an honour to host the 2017 ITAA Conference in Porto. This conference is a fantastic opportunity for us to meet with the Irish travel trade and strengthen our relationships with travel agents throughout Ireland, who play an important role in the promotion and distribution of Portugal’s travel products.”
The ITAA represents Ireland’s travel Industry, bringing together 100 travel agent members and 70 affiliate partners. ITAA members cover over 140 outlets in different towns and cities throughout the Republic of Ireland. All travel agent members are licensed by the Commission for Aviation Regulation and are fully bonded providing full financial protection for their customers.