Questions: Are you a pro or just savvy?
The following are examples of the kinds of questions agents will see in the planned IATA tests for ID card applicants. These three questions will not actually be used in the real pool of questions.
How could you best avoid the problem of a tour company bankruptcy and lost deposits?
a. Sell travel packages only of tour operators that belong to associations with consumer protection plans
b. Require your clients to purchase cancellation insurance
c. Write stringent contracts that heavily penalize tour companies that go bankrupt
d. Contract only with local tour operators
To check procedures and regulations governing the sale of air transportation, travel counselors refer to the
a. IATA Policy Manual
b. Travel Planner
d. ARC Industry Agents Handbook
The distance by road from Paris, France, to Nice, France, is approximately 800 kilometers. Approximately how many miles is this?
Answers:1. a; 2. d; 3. b
IATA will for the first time require
travel agents to pass competency tests before qualifying for an
IATA identification card.
tests, which are part of an overhaul of IATAs agency ID programs
worldwide, will be launched in the U.S. -- the largest market for
the cards -- starting as early as September.
Fees for the
cards will remain $30 for one year or $50 for two years, but
cardholders will be retested at each required annual
Institute is writing the tests for U.S. agents, with questions
designed to separate professional sellers of travel from hobbyists,
said Travel Institute Chairman Scott Ahlsmith.
He said IATA and
the institute both want to support legitimate professional travel
sellers, no matter how narrowly focused their business
On the other
hand, Ahlsmith said that even a top specialist in a particular
field also needs a general working knowledge of the
multiple-choice tests, to be taken online, while not meant to be
tricky are not meant to be easy, Ahlsmith said. It would be OK if
20% of legitimate agents had to retake the test [after their first
try]. The agents could be legitimate but not that well
The questions, he
said, will touch on industry segments (accommodations, air, cruise,
ground transportation and tours), geography, international travel,
professional development, sales and service, and operations and
technology. (See sample questions above right).
Although IATA is
an airline trade association, Ahlsmith said that the tests would
not place extra emphasis on the airline segment. For example, he said, questions wont go into
airline tariffs, but they will deal with aviation to the extent
that the institute feels a cruise-only agent must understand
airline matters in order to serve cruisers.
The tests will
have 25 to 35 questions -- the exact
number yet to be determined. For each test-taker, items will be
drawn randomly by computer from a larger pool of questions. Each
test will be different from most or all others, and agents wouldnt
be able to help others too much by copying questions to
The pool of
questions will be updated regularly, partly to keep up with
and regular updates also mean a test-taker wont be looking at the
same questions year after year.
institute officials said they expect some agents to object to
testing or to IATAs role in a program designed to meet industry
needs rather than merely those of international air
president Phil Davidoff objected on both counts. If proven tested
knowledge is what they really want, they should accept tests
already taken, such as the CTC designation, he said.
Davidoff said he
was not convinced of the value of annual tests. Has the successful
test-taker suddenly developed amnesia or has the travel world
changed that much in a year? he wondered.
He also asked how
testing would differentiate an agent from a savvy frequent traveler
-- especially the professional speakers, salespeople and others who
buy cards from card mills to get discounts on hotels and car
IATAs regional director for the Americas, said tests are not
intended to keep agents out, but to ensure each applicant has the
knowledge base to function as an agent.
that no one would be forcing agents to take tests or to get the
The pressure is
on IATA to develop enough benefits so agents will want it, he said,
terming the requirements not unreasonable for a voluntary
As for weeding
out the merely savvy traveler, Ahlsmith said the institute had
tested an early set of questions with hobbyists, and they were
answering 70% to 80% of questions correctly. As a result, he said,
the questions have been fine tuned because we need a 100% failure
among the public. (Even a savvy frequent traveler would have to
satisfy other IATA requirements such as minimum annual income from
questioned the propriety of IATA quizzing agents on anything other
than international air.
spokeswoman said the organization had already expanded beyond air
travel, referring to the travel services intermediary (TSI)
designation it offers in the U.S. to agents who do not sell air and
the comparable travel industry designator service (TIDS)
designation offered elsewhere.
Air is in the
name, the spokeswoman said, but it is not all we do.
is helping to test the new ID cards technology, has worked harder
than most suppliers at identifying legitimate travel agents and
weeding out the amateurs. Fred Miller, vice president of global
sales at Marriott, focuses on the common goal shared by IATA and
the hotel company.
He said the
revamped ID program looks promising because not just anyone can get
this card. IATA seems to have the most realistic criteria for
designating sellers of travel. If the program does what we hope
for, it should be the standard for industry credentials.
emphasized the value of a global option.
With a card that
looks the same in all countries, he said, it is more likely to be
recognized and accepted by suppliers of all types
The global design
would make it easier for suppliers to separate professionals from
nonprofessionals, Rivero said, and would provide better recognition
for agents anywhere in the world.
Rivero added that
ID programs will grow in importance overseas as the home-agent
trend catches on outside of North America.
the reporter who wrote this article, send e-mail to Nadine Godwin
at [email protected].