e've stated before our commitment to
the digital world and digital commerce. If a business transaction
can be handled electronically, with a minimum of paper, we're for
it. We even like e-tickets, sort of. We like the fact that travel
agents can report their ARC sales electronically. And we commend
ARC, again, for giving agents this option.
Having said that, we're a little taken aback at ARC's proposal
to triple the annual fee for travel agents who choose to continue
to report sales under what ARC now calls "the old, outdated manual
ARC counted 40,309 travel agency locations in the system at the
end of September, of which 20,944, or 52%, report their sales using
the new electronic system. ARC said it doesn't want agents who
report sales using the new low-cost electronic option to be
burdened with paying fees to support the older, more costly manual
That sounds reasonable in principle, but the practical effect
for manually reporting agents will be to push the annual fee to
$475 a little over a year from now, up from $150 today. ARC plans
to accomplish this with quarterly surcharges of $100 or more,
beginning on July 1, 2001.
Agencies that report electronically get a notably less dramatic
fee reduction, from $150 to $125 -- which might lead one to wonder
why the stick is so much bigger than the carrot.
Presumably, ARC did its homework and crunched the numbers for
this proposal, but as long as it has its calculator out, maybe it
can figure how many 5% airline commissions it takes to cover a $325
increase in a travel agency's annual operating costs. The short
answer is: too many.
ARC reports that the members of its Joint Advisory Board agreed
to present the proposal to the ARC board, with the exception of
ASTA, which opposed it.
We're with ASTA on this one.