Mark Meader, ASTA’s senior vice president of industry
affairs and education, was appointed to a second two-year term as the chair of
the executive committee of the World Travel Agents Associations Alliance
(WTAAA), the organization that advocates for travel agencies on a global level.
In 2020, Meader plans to expand the work of the alliance
through four working committees he pushed to create last year, expanding the
WTAAA’s areas of focus beyond air distribution to areas such as technology and
land and sea suppliers.
“You can think of the WTAAA as being the global voice of the
agency community that advocates on our members’ behalf while we exchange ideas
and information for the betterment of the agency community across the globe,”
The alliance’s membership consists of 11 regional
associations, including ASTA and the European Travel Agents & Tour Operators
Association, also known as the ECTAA, which has members in some 67 countries
around the globe.
The alliance was incorporated in 2008. At the time, a group
of trade associations, including ASTA and the ECTAA, agreed there was a need
for a group with a global view of the travel distribution channel. Meader was
elected as an alliance director in 2015. He became vice chairman in 2017 and
held that spot for two years. He has been the chairman since 2018.
The alliance weighs in on issues that could affect the
global agency community. For example, it has had a seat at the table in
discussions with IATA on some of its recent initiatives, including its New
Distribution Capability (NDC) and One Order, an initiative under which airlines
will consolidate a passenger’s personal information and purchases.
“Those are two very big issues that we’ve been, I’d like to
say, successfully focused on in terms of having had good influence in ensuring
that the agency communities’ interests in terms of air distribution are well-represented,”
Another issue the alliance has been vocal on is IATA
governance. According to Meader, when IATA wants to file a resolution (like the
one introducing NDC, for instance), it can be filed with the DOT as a tier-one,
-two or -three resolution. Tier three involves antitrust immunity and is rarely
seen, and tier-one and -two resolutions are more common.
Tier-two resolutions come with a 90-day period for the
public to make comments and potentially shape the resolution, but tier-one filings
are those that IATA feels are more procedural in nature, so they don’t require
The WTAAA and the Society have concerns that too many
resolutions are filed as tier-one resolutions and should, instead, have a
comment period like tier-two resolutions. NDC, for example, was filed as a tier
two, but One Order, which Meader believes will likely have an even greater
impact on the agency community, was filed as a tier one.
The four working committees created last year are air; land
and sea; technology; and strategy and opportunity. In addition to continuing
the alliance’s work on the air channel, Meader plans to steer the WTAAA to
consider those other areas of focus.
In 2018, there were 1.4 billion global travelers, he said,
up from 435 million in 1990.
“Given that, it’s critical that the travel agency voices are
heard globally, and the WTAAA is certainly well placed to provide that support,”
Meader said it’s important that the Society is a member of
the WTAAA and that membership, in turn, benefits ASTA members.
He said membership enables “the travel agency community to
speak with one voice not only in the U.S. through ASTA but with one voice
across the globe.”