LONG BEACH, Calif. -- Calling rebating "a chronic problem that threatens the industry," Avoya executive vice president Jeff Anderson not only appealed to suppliers to "level the playing field," but outlined a plan to help them identify the worst offenders.

Rebates reduce profitability for agencies that play by the rules and wastes the time of both agents and suppliers who must rebook clients as a consequence of rebating, Anderson said.

Ashley Hunter, Avoya's vice president of business development, said rebating is beginning to occur in the deluxe and luxury categories where it hadn't been a problem before. She has seen some instances where agencies will rebate the entire commission.

A combination of preventative measures and penalties can be effective for curbing rebating, Anderson said, and Avoya will provide intelligence on who is rebating and by how much. "We want to switch from anecdotal to evidential reporting (of abuses) to suppliers," Anderson said.

Avoya agencies are often compelled to rebate themselves, Anderson acknowledged, either by price-matching or, when it's widely known that prices of certain products almost always reflect rebating discounts, proactively coming out with a discounted price. Avoya will share in the cost in cases of defensive rebating, Anderson said.

An example of a preventative move is a policy instituted by AmaWaterways to require an invoice showing payment in full. While it's possible for an agency to then write a check to the traveler as a form of rebate, AmaWaterways vice president of sales and co-owner Gary Murphy said the policy has significantly reduced rebating on its river cruises.

To penalize rebaters, Anderson said, suppliers should tell rebaters that if they don't need all the commission they're being paid, it will be reduced by the amount they rebate.

The discussion of rebating arose as an offshoot of a discussion on "deep collaboration with partners," the first of four "mission objectives" Avoya plans to focus on between now and 2025. The others are to inspire travelers to explore more, create life-giving technologies and provide distinct experiences for their clients.

Avoya recently filed a third patent for its latest technology, said co-founder Van Anderson. It will reflect changes to its software programs that will streamline the company's ability to match prospects with the right agents in its network and improvements in applications that communicate with suppliers for the purpose of sharing and analyzing performance, with the goal of making collaboration more efficient.

The cruise category currently makes up 70% of the company sales, Jeff Anderson said, but the company plans to diversify its supplier relations into new areas in 2018.

Senior vice president of marketing Sam McCully also revealed that the company plans to create a loyalty program for its clients that would integrate with supplier loyalty programs.

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