IATA accreditation program for meeting planners in the works

By Nadine Godwin

CruiseWorldHomeBaselogo162x120FORT LAUDERDALE — IATA is roughing out a plan to accredit professional meeting planners, and aims to launch the program by the end of June, according to Bert Rivero, IATA’s regional director for the Americas.

He revealed initial plans during Travel Weekly’s CruiseWorld 2010 and Home-Based Travel Agent Show and Conference here.

Rivero said the proposed program responds to a flurry of requests, mostly in the last six months, from meeting planners and their suppliers asking for a unique accreditation system for planners.

He said suppliers, as they see their business coming back in the wake of the Great Recession, "want to be more surgical" about whom they do business with.

Rivero said the accreditation standards remain to be finalized. He has conferred with Acclaim Meetings (a division of American Marketing Group) and hopes for input from Meeting Planners International, as well.

 BertRiveroBased on feedback so far, he said, standards will probably call for candidates to have three to five years’ experience and proof of the business they manage, possibly 10 to 20 movements a year.

For independent businesses, IATA would probably ask to see contracts or obtain recommendations from previous customers. For corporate meeting planners, proof of employment would likely be part of the mix.

He said he hopes to present an accreditation plan to the IATAN advisory board in May in anticipation of a launch by late June. He said it will debut in the U.S. but will be a global program.

 Planners who obtain a unique eight-digit IATA number will also qualify to obtain ID cards that resemble those carried by travel agents, except they will identify the holders as meeting planners.

Estimates about the potential number of meeting planners varies widely, Rivero said, although he suspects it is less than 100,000 in the U.S.

He said he could not guess how many will seek accreditation, but that the program would not be costly for IATA to implement.

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