We remain optimistic that the specter of government-sponsored
bypass at the heart of two controversial reservations systems --
one proposed and one up and running -- will not long threaten the
mutually rewarding relationship that exists between destinations
eager to welcome visitors and the wholesalers and retailers intent
on delivering them.
In the most recent instance of government incursion into the
free market, Irish tourism interests sealed a deal with a private
company to offer a tour operator-booking operation designed to
capture the business of U.S. consumers expressing interest in the
destination through toll-free phone numbers or on the Net. Not
surprisingly, the U.S. Tour Operators Association and ASTA raised
objections to the project, which would have amounted to the
establishment of a government monopoly. Fortunately, the tourism
officials backed off the plan -- at least until next spring.
We expect that this is one spring that will never be sprung,
considering a conciliatory statement by the Irish Tourist Board
that it has "been working with ... concerned tour operators to
address their concerns." We applaud the board's intention to
rethink the plan. Alienating agents and operators does not strike
us as a clever way to promote tourism.
Closer to home, California's controversial hotel reservations
program is humming -- without the agent referral system it had
promised the trade.
ARTA, instrumental in winning the commitment, has put the demand
for an agent link on the "back burner," and the California
Coalition of Travel Organizations says it will not help create such
a system. The state maintains that it wants agent input "on how the
lead or referral system will be done."
With a new administration about to take over the reins of
government, it is time for the trade to lend a hand and invite
California to honor its commitment.