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,” Meader said.

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,” Meader said.

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 public review.

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.

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.”

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