Death at site: Traditional Travel Agents in Trouble

Featured, News — By on February 13, 2016 at 7:25 am

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Travel agents beware! The ordinary travel agents and tour operators will have to pull their shutters down unless they merge themselves as subsidiaries to the OTA giants in India. But no agents are aware or bothered about their own survival or safety of their business ventures.

One of the leading prominent Gulf carriers – Qatar Airways, recently published an advertisement in the ‘Times of India on 13th January, 2016, where certain OTAs have been painted as the sole sales end of Qatar Airway’s Travel festival offer – the 50% dream deals in India for 2016.

It was reported that IATA Agents Association of India (IAAI) had expressed the Industry’s strong dissent and protested to the QR Country Manager India, Mr. Henry Moses, in Mumbai and to H.E. Akbar Al Baker, CEO – Qatar Airways. Doha (Qatar) on this discriminatory modality of the festival deal. It echoed specifically that this action was very unbecoming and unexpected from an international airline to ignore and disrespect around 2950 traditional Travel Agents who have been appointed under a ‘General Concurrence’ with IATA and who are the bona fide promoters of QR all over India.

Travel Agents are maintaining offices with a minimum of 4 staff even in the smaller agencies, canvassing for clients and servicing the customers for all their travel requirements as 80% of Indian travelers depend on travel agents for Passport, Visa, Foreign Exchange, choice of airlines and cheapest air fares to suit their pockets. Many of the Indian travelers are not even exposed to Internet or credit cards and use thumb impressions instead of signatures. At the Global level, almost 60% of travelers continue to be dependent always on the traditional Travel Agent.

Traditional travel agents are in fact responsible for almost 80% of Qatar business. Agents, who have been, over the years, taking care of their sales & marketing, generating thousands of crores of Rupees worth of business by risking such huge amounts in the Market, obtaining overdrafts to make the BSP payments and paying interests at high rates on such borrowings.

India remains a key market for Qatar Airways having an extensive route network offering 102 passenger flights non-stop each week from 13 gateway cities to Doha with the re-launch of operations from Nagpur. Currently, Indian operations cover services from Ahmedabad, Amritsar, Bengaluru, Chennai, Cochin, Delhi, Goa, Hyderabad, Kolkata, Kozhikode, Mumbai, Nagpur and Trivandrum. Further, 21 of these flights are operated weekly with Boeing 787 Dreamliner aircraft from Bengaluru, Delhi and Kolkata in order to meet the increase in demand.

Such a route network strengthens and emphasizes the fact that it is the traditional Travel Agents who are the force that fill the aircrafts with passengers & cargo and the airline must acknowledge that Agency Distribution Networks are their backbone of success and expansions. 70-75% of the international segments are always filled by the traditional Travel Agents in India.

Sources at IAAI said that they had informed QR that “such actions of sidelining appointed Travel Agents do not augur well for the Industry and the possibilities of “Going places together” in the future appear very remote”.

A travel agent from Delhi, Mr. H.S. Chawla, on the sidelines of SATTE, commented that, this topic was openly discussed at “Associations Today” Panel discussions at the open forum of SATTE. A Pune Agent, Mr. Devendra Ghule remarked that “It is proper that such discriminatory activities of airlines are discussed in an open forum as such acts should be treated as a threat to the sustainability of ordinary traditional travel agents”. Mr. Ghule added that Airlines do always print the common phrase – ‘contact your preferred travel agent’. The only question is – who are the preferred agents? Whether OTAs or Ordinary agents????

On contacted, the IAAI National President, Mr. Biji Eapen, said that “Qatar Airways clarified that the OTAs advertised in the ‘Times of India’ had committed investments to promote QR assuring their support and that the offer was open to all Agents.” Holding the QR letter, he added like a warning “these carriers should not forget the Spring Travel tragedy”. And he continued – ‘Travel Agents are struggling to run their businesses with the airlines’ imposition of zero commission and weekly payments. Soon, IATA’s New Distribution Capability (NDC) will spell doom for many Travel Agents by being the last nail on the coffin. If there is unity and togetherness in the travel trade, we could make miracles in India”

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