And so we say farewell to 2014…

As we close off another year, I wanted to take this opportunity to thank you all for your ongoing commitment and support of ASATA.

The year has certainly presented us with a number of challenges; As usual, mostly out of our control. From Ebola to visa restrictions and a plummeting rand, to legislative changes to the Immigration Act, including the introduction of the requirements for children under the age of 18 to travel with unabridged birth certificates.

This has fortunately been postponed until 01 June 2015, but it still effected the industry through the confusion and poor communication of the implementation. ASATA has been instrumental in the engagement process with the Department of Home Affairs, including the impact study commissioned through the TBCSA  highlighting the effect the changes are having on the travel and tourism industry at large. This engagement continues though our participation on the task team that was created by the Minister of Home Affairs to look into the implementation of the legislative changes.

“Government has been a focal point this year”

Government has been a focal point for us this year. We have challenged the proposed introduction of a tourism levy in KZN; assisted DIRCO with raising awareness of the ROSA (Registration Of South Africans Abroad) programme and assisted the Department of Tourism with the alignment of the Tourism B-BBEE codes to the amended generic codes of good practice.

Through ASATA’s joint project with National Treasury, we have almost completed the development of a travel procurement framework for government, that now includes a code of conduct, MOU and process around the categorisation of government departments and TMCs. This includes tenders, process workflows, best practice and a travel policy. We have also addressed ongoing poor payment habits that saw our members owed R350 million at the end August this year. The framework will not only guide how we as an industry and government engage, but will also guide industry engagement with private sector too.

Fraud has been a real challenge for our members this year and we rolled out an extensive fraud awareness programme in September, through our blog. Fraudsters are becoming increasingly inventive and even the best prepared travel agent can fall into their trap. Through our regional meetings and at our conference in Hermanus we highlighted a number of legislations that are or will impact on our industry, including the introduction of the POPI Act, the Companies Act, the Competitions Act and Business Rescue.

Working with IATA

We continue to engage IATA on several matters that affect our industry, including a full review of the financial criteria for the Southern African BSP Region and the introduction of a Default Insurance Programme. As at this morning, the proposal is under review by IATA in Montreal and includes an engagement process with the re-insurers.  Together with the local IATA office and the Amman hub, we are looking to address the concerns and challenges our industry faces when engaging with the hub. We have developed a market operational focus area document that includes an action plan that we hope will guide IATA in reviewing some of the less then customer-friendly policies that they apply.

Through the WTAAA (World Travel Agent Associations Alliance) we participate on the Passenger Agency Program Global Joint Council, the sole global dialogue group of airlines and agents. As an affiliate of a coalition of National Travel Agent Associations, ASATA is working with IATA on a study regarding the New Distribution Capability (NDC) XML standard. The study will, among others, seek to understand the impact for travel agents of implementing communications with airlines that wish to distribute their products using the NDC standard, from a business, technology and commercial perspective.

This year also saw the introduction of our Captains of Industry meetings, an industry leaders’ round-table discussion where we interact and share our strategic goals whilst engaging with industry leaders to get their valuable expertise in helping to shape the strategic direction and focus of ASATA.

We also launched our Young Professionals in Travel chapter, providing a platform for promising young travel industry members to network and engage their peers to help better understand their place in our industry, the role they play and the contribution they make to the development, growth and sustainability of our industry. It will also be an environment that will allow industry leadership to identify future leaders and nurture them through a mentorship programme.

The year ahead…

2015 will undoubtedly be another challenging year for our members and the wider travel industry, not only from a financial and budgetary perspective, but also in terms of the ever-growing need to assess the current business model. ASATA strongly believes that its role will be to look critically at the current model and what changes need to be made to ensure the sustainability of our members and their future growth.

It only leaves me to wish you all a happy holiday season, enjoying the company of friends and family and taking the time to re-charge the batteries. Enjoy the break, be safe and we look forward to being of service to you all in the new year.