It was just about a month ago in this space that we bemoaned the
fact that the Open Travel Alliance (OTA) -- that's the group
developing a universal Internet protocol for the transmission of
travel data -- had restricted the retail trade's access to it. Now
comes word that OTA has reassessed the situation and made some
organizational changes that will enable travel agents to
participate more effectively in its decision-making process.
Although it is far from clear what impact the trade ultimately
will have on OTA's actions (its new board structure remains
dominated by suppliers), it is expected that under the new setup,
agents will make their presence felt throughout a wider swath of
the alliance's working groups than they could before.
While we welcome OTA's move, only time will tell whether its new
inclusiveness truly heralds the advent of a meaningful vendor-agent
alliance. We'll see.
We were struck the other day when the National Business Travel
Association failed to acknowledge the role of the trade when it
called upon the airlines to load discounted, Web-only fares onto
the major CRSs. After all, who else for the foreseeable future will
meet the arcane demands of the reservations systems on behalf of
their corporate clients but retail travel agents? An unintentional
snub? We hope so.
Nevertheless, we enthusiastically endorse NBTA's request, which
was included in a letter sent to the airlines by Mark Johnson,
president of the group. Not only do the inducements of Web-only
pricing strain the integrity of negotiated fare discounts and
confound corporate travel policies, they invite consumers -- both
business and leisure travelers -- to bypass the trade in hopes of
obtaining bargains. Companies should have access to Web fares, and
so should their agencies.