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brucebishins smallWe were saddened to hear that Bruce Bishins, president and CEO of ARTA Canada, passed away last week. For all those who knew Bruce, either personally or simply through his speeches, blogs and media, it is no exaggeration to say that our industry lost a titan. A powerful, compelling voice has fallen silent, but the impact of Bruce’s legacy will live on for decades.

In a time when travel agencies and travel agent groups are experiencing enormous pressures—economic, political and technological—Bruce was consistently forward-thinking and unabashed to share his view of our industry’s future. He embraced modernizing the industry, but always demanded that his constituents—the travel agents—not be overlooked in the process. No matter the venue or the audience, you could rely on Bruce and his inspired mind to deliver a solid, fair message that challenged all of us to think bigger and to walk our talk.

The last time I saw Bruce was at the Department of Transportation Consumer Protection meeting in August 2012 in Washington, DC. Seeing Bruce at this meeting took me by surprise as he no longer had the physical appearance of the man I had known for years. I learned he had suffered a pretty severe stroke months earlier, which had clearly taken its toll on him. Outwardly, he seemed a shadow of his former self, but inwardly it was the same old Bruce, with his never-ending passion to do the right thing and to call out others when they did not. While Bruce had clearly suffered from his stroke physically, his heart, soul, and even his sense of humor were all still intact. And despite his struggle to “get the words out,” Bruce delivered a power-punched speech to a room full of industry and Department of Transportation executives. At one point he told me he was learning to talk all over again and joked that was the last thing he expected he would ever have to do, but that he was up for the challenge… as he always was.

Bruce was very seldom at a loss for words, and he certainly was not on that day many of us saw him in DC. He was an outspoken leader for the travel industry, driven by passion, the quest for innovation, and personal creativity. His calm, compassionate yet powerful voice will be missed.

© govicinity - Fotolia.com

© govicinity – Fotolia.com

It was recently reported that the Business Travel Coalition’s We the People petition—advocating for needless government regulation of airline ancillary products—failed to garner the required signatures. The petition was just over 20,000 short of the required 25,000… not a very stellar performance. Still, we give BTC credit for attempting to raise awareness about the importance of transparency in our industry and wanted to take the opportunity to offer some feedback and even a suggested next step.

As we see it, here was the problem with the BTC petition: it was focused on a false transparency problem and ignored a real transparency problem. Let’s face it, it’s time to let go of the illogical premise that airlines are withholding ancillary information from travel agencies as part of a master plot to bilk the consumer. Not true! The real problem is that the GDSs lack the technical prowess to sell airline ancillaries in the flexible and dynamic way the airlines want to sell them while protecting their brand—just like any retailer would want. And by blocking new technology entrants in the world of distribution, the GDSs seemingly have no real incentive to improve their technologies in a way that would solve these challenges and allow for the sale of ancillary products in the personalized, dynamic way sought by airlines and consumers. Read the rest of this entry »

Did you know travel agents are working around the GDS to meet customer demand for booking airline ancillary products and services? In fact, “nine in 10 corporate agents and more than 70% of leisure retail agents have booked air ancillaries over the past year.”

Wait. That quote can’t be right. I must have read it wrong. Due to technological limitations that restrict the meaningful display of ancillaries in the GDS, almost no airline ancillaries are available for sale through GDSs. I know because the GDSs and their allies are trying to push for government regulation to require airlines to distribute and display their ancillary products and services through the… well, let’s just say the less-than-modern GDS channel.

But no, I read this recent Travel Weekly article three times and that’s what the quote says. The article reports on a PhoCusWright study that states, among other things, “Agents’ willingness to book [ancillary products] without compensation implies that the demand for handling ancillaries as part of the flight reservation is customer-driven.” So there we have it! Despite these agencies getting no help from their GDS, they are finding ways to sell ancillaries. It’s really no surprise when you think about it. Travelers, like all consumers, want choices and options, and travel agents are once again demonstrating resilience when it comes to meeting the needs of their customers!

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