Last week, I penned an article on a new organization that was out to be the leading advocacy organization for travel agents. Having never heard of the organization, and having seen the demise of many, I was skeptical and asked if we indeed needed yet another organization. In particular, I questioned if additional organizations only led to greater confusion for the consumer.
Shortly after publication, I learned that Tom and Joanie Ogg were the driving forces behind the effort. The Oggs have been embedded (best term) in the travel industry for 40 years. From the founding of NACTA to authoring numerous books for the home based agent to truly leading the home based market through the darkness when it was in its infancy.
With Tom’s permission, I want to make sure that what was a new “mystery organization” last week, had equal time to lay out the vision for the Travel Professional Association.
John, I found your article interesting, but let me add some information to help readers understand the subtleties that we are dealing with.
There are all types of sellers of travel. Online agencies do a huge volume. MLMs also generate a reasonable amount of revenue. Big Box discounters are making inroads into the marketing of vacation packages and cruises, as have travel clubs and network marketers, not to mention the vertical integration by suppliers that has taken place over the last ten years. In fact, it is hard to go anywhere without having the opportunity to purchase a cruise, all inclusive resort, vacation or other travel product. Travel Professionals make up a part of the distribution fabric that suppliers use and offer a very unique value proposition to both suppliers and consumers alike. But, no one is telling their specific story in a compelling way.
You mention a number of organizations in your article, so let me go through them one by one.
ASTA does a wonderful job in Washington and is without question, the world’s most influential association. Yet, ASTA’s membership is made up of all types of sellers of travel that compete with Travel Professionals directly. It is quite unlikely that ASTA would mount a consumer campaign strictly for the Travel Professional distribution channel at the cost of their other types of members. And, the Travel Professional Association is not in any way competitive with ASTA. In fact, many of the early TPA members are also ASTA members.
The Travel Institute is really an educational entity and is very effective at training and certifying travel agents. I am not sure that building consumer awareness of the unique value proposition of travel professionals is a function defined in their mission statement. Once again, the Travel Professional Association is made up of CTCs, CTAs, DSs and so on. The Travel Professional Association is not competitive with TTI in any way and I suspect that down the road, we will find many common opportunities to work together.
CLIA is also an educational association and is very effective at training agents on the benefits of selling cruises. Many of those involved with the Travel Professional Association are ECCSs, ECCs, MCCs and so forth. However, CLIA trains all sellers of travel regardless of their affiliation and has no agenda to isolate and promote Travel Professionals specifically. The Travel Professional Association is not at all competitive with CLIA in any way and embraces its professional mission in our industry.
Of course, Joanie and I are quite familiar with NACTA having pretty much created it and sold it to ASTA, so I assure you that TPA is not competitive with either NACTA or OSSN in any way. The Travel Professional Association is made up of members of both organizations and I suspect there will be common ground in the future.
You also mention PATH, which is an association bringing a level of professionalism to the host agency model in the distribution system, but to my knowledge has no intention of taking on the task of increasing consumer awareness on behalf of their travel professional member agents. And so we go.
Here is the issue. Travel Professionals are simply a segment of a much larger distribution matrix. Travel Professionals offer both consumers and suppliers a unique value proposition that needs to be told to the industry and consumers alike. There is a difference between booking a cruise or vacation online, with a big box discounter, an untrained MLM agent, with the cruise line, property or tour operator directly (and many other channels) and booking it with a knowledgeable travel professional.
You also question the ability of the association to survive in this day and age. Trust me John, after 40-years in this industry I am pretty good at it…VBG.
This is what the Travel Professional Association is all about.
I hope this explains the Travel Professional Association’s mission and value proposition. Its single function is branding Travel Professionals in a way consumers will recognize and respond to is the foundation of the association