Travel And Tour World – What is the main purpose of ECTAA?
ECTAA: ECTAA regroups 36 national associations of travel agents and tour operators in 31 European countries as well as Morocco and Tunisia. In terms of figures, ECTAA represents almost 70.000 travel agencies and tour operators, engaged in both incoming and outgoing tourism business.
The mission of ECTAA is to represent the travel agents and tour operators vis-à-vis the EU institutions and international organisations on all issues of a legal, economic or technical nature relating to the tourism and travel trade.
ECTAA’s activities range from European Union policy affairs (tourism policy, air transport policy, competition policy, consumer protection, visa policy, etc.) to IATA matters (Passenger Agency Programme) and destination matters (promotion of selected destinations, dealing with destination issues).
Travel And Tour World – Do you think policies that foster healthy competitiveness among the tour agents can enhance the European tourism industry?
ECTAA: Yes, indeed, European policies are key to ensuring a well-functioning and competitive market for the distribution of travel services, to the benefit of the customer. There are a number of policies and legislations that are important for our sector. To start with, competition rules to avoid abuse of dominant positions, such as those of Google and airlines that impose a distribution cost charge. The GDS Code of conduct, which ensures clear and neutral display of travel services and thus safeguards consumer choice and transparency. The Air Services Regulation, which contains rules on transparent pricing and non-discrimination on access to fares based on the location or nationality of the customer or the travel agent. These are just a few examples of legislation that are important to ensure a healthy competition in the market for travel services for the benefit of the consumer.
Travel And Tour World: To incorporate reliability and integrity among the tourists, do you think travel agents’ training programs are necessary?
ECTAA: The travel agents’ are a key source of information on destinations and, where requested, inform customers about the local culture, traditions and rules, and the proper behaviour of tourists to ensure that they do not offend local people, etc. That is a reason why familiarisation trips of the destinations are still very important and should be promoted among travel agents.
Travel And Tour World: Over the age, the tourists and their outlook have changed. How is ECTAA implementing these changes and updating the training system for the tour agents?
ECTAA: ECTAA does not engage in the provision of training to travel agents. This is an activity undertaken by the Members of ECTAA at national level. Having said this, ECTAA promotes the exchange of information and best practices among its Members.
A recent study mandated by the European Commission analysed the different systems of education, vocational training and continuous learning in tourism in Europe and concluded that there is no shortage of education and training in tourism, but that there is a mismatch between the skills required and those provided. Often people that are recruited in our sector have to be trained before they start working or they are recruited from another industry to bring in competences that are needed in our sector, for example IT and digital communication skills. There is a clear need for educational programmes to be adapted to the needs of the industry and for industry to invest in the training and continuous learning of their staff.
Travel And Tour World – Europe’s public and private tourism actors came together for the first time. How do you think this will improve the sustainability and competitiveness of Europe’s tourism?
ECTAA: The education system, vocational training and continuous learning in Europe are provided by both public bodies and private undertakings so there is a need to work together to ensure that the training programme develop the required skills sets and are consistent throughout the various learning stages. As tourism is still a very human resources intensive industry, the investment in education and training is key to improve the quality of services and thus the competitiveness of Europe as a destination.
Travel And Tour World – How do you think will be the New Year for the travel industry?
ECTAA: The market for the distribution of travel services is very competitive. To survive and indeed grow in this market, enterprises need to understand the needs of the customers, which are continuously evolving. They need to be a step ahead and know what the customer wants next, so as to offer them the required services. This means understanding the customer, analysing the customers purchase paths and long-term behaviour, and then offering tailor made services. It requires entreprises to embrace technology into all their operations to capture the customer’s interest as early as in the search phase all the way to the delivery of the service at destination. Data will become extremely important allowing for personalised travel experiences. Challenges such as the exceptional growth of Sharing Economy actors in tourism and dominance of a number of actors will continue to prevail in 2016.