Akshay Shah is the Vice President of Marketing for Sky Bird Travel and Tours, a leading consolidator in the travel industry and recipient of numerous awards including: Prestigious Peacock Award from the Government of India-Tourism Office and the Peak of Excellence Award from the Sabre Travel Network. Mr. Shah is an expert on airline consolidation and the travel industry. He is also the President at United States Air Consolidation Association (USACA).
With the growing popularity of online airline ticket booking, the definition of “consolidator” has become slightly blurred. Can you explain what makes Sky Bird a consolidator?
A consolidator is a travel agency that has specific airline contracts that allows it to resell to other travel agents. These contracts allow the travel agency to offer bulk and commissionable fares in economy/business and first class to its travel agent customers. Mainly the airline deals that are offered to the travel agents are for international destinations and do not require the travel agent to purchase a land option with it. Consolidators mainly deal in the leisure markets.
How is this different from other methods of purchasing airline tickets?
As a consolidator, which has been in business over 35 years, we have negotiated net fares with more than 75 major airlines. We negotiate our net fares directly with the airline to provide discounts of up to 15%-35% off retail prices.
What are the benefits of travel agents booking through a consolidator?
Today, on the majority of carriers, travel agents do not earn any commission. By utilizing a consolidator, they are able to either get commission off a published fare or get a bulk fare that will allow the agency to add a mark up and sell it to their customer. Our vast experience in international travel will also be able to provide the traveler the best flight options that many times the online sites are not able to offer.
How does Sky Bird maintain a presence with travel agents throughout the country and even the world?
Through trade shows, traditional and non-traditional advertising and marketing such as social media networking.
Do you offer any educational tools for agents who wish to collaborate with your company?
We have webinars that we conduct from time to time. In addition, our trained and experienced travel specialists can answer any questions that new travel agents may have. We can guide them through the entire booking process, if required.
Sky Vacations is a division of Sky Bird. Please explain the goals and operations of Sky Vacations.
Sky Vacations is the Tour Operation Division of Sky Bird. We can provide you with an array of travel programs and services that continue to evolve. For the global markets that we serve, we have formed a preferred alliance with various partners in those destinations. These Destination Management Companies provide us with “local presence” and infrastructure within various regions that allow us to provide agents and their customers with strong support for particular programs that we have. Again, the combination of Sky Bird with Sky Vacations makes for an excellent price for an amazing tour experience.
How do you choose which packages and destinations to offer through Sky Vacations?
Sky Vacations was a natural extension of Sky Bird as we have been doing ad-hoc groups for various tour operators throughout the world. Our first packages were to India as that has and will always be our strongest market. Throughout the years, the Sky Bird Group of Companies (of which Sky Bird and Sky Vacations are part of) has diversified in many other markets. We have then personally traveled to these markets to find the local destination management companies that we have vetted to work with. We have the ability to make FIT packages almost anywhere in the world with absolute confidence that we will be able to offer the best price along with the best experience.
And what is your personal destination of choice when it is time to take a vacation?
My family prefers to go to Europe. My personal preference is anywhere in Latin America.
Anything new on the horizon that you would like to share with the travel agent community?
We are always evolving our technology to offer better online booking services as well as our phone system to ensure that our customers are handled quickly and efficiently. We are working to offer online as well as ancillary services other than air through our website. With the changes in credit card acceptance agents should call us for some programs that we have that can help them with this form of payment from their clients.