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Indian Travel Agents get their Own Portal

October 9, 2017 Headline News No Comments Email Email

IATA Agents Association of India (IAAI) has launched I-TOP, Indian Travel-Agents Own Portal to enhance revenues of its members. The collective platform with latest technology is expected to strengthen individual agents’ position in dealing with suppliers.  Additionally, India’s first NDC (New Distribution Capability) enabled online platform lets each member work individually as well as a consolidator through GDS or the internet. Members can also sell their products on www.itop.travel.

Biji Eapen, President, IATA Agents Association of India (IAAI), said at the launch in Kerala: “We are trying to empower agents of small and medium business with better remunerations. In today’s ‘zero’ commission scenario, I-TOP will provide guaranteed opportunity to earn substantially through the sale of NDC airline tickets and other services like cancellation, refund, rerouting and date change, for which airlines charge penalties without sharing revenue with travel agents. NDC will also result in reduction of Agent Debit Memos (ADMs) since airlines make direct offers to agents.”

IAAI team

Travel Shore Technologies, technology partner for establishments like Global UFTAA, has put together the portal since 18 months. It was tested at 10 different locations in India. Currently the system has incorporated Galileo and will shortly add Amadeus and ABACUS GDS systems.

Alex T Jacob, Director & CEO, Travel Shore Technologies, said: “I-TOP will be a brand powered website where every registered agent gets his/her own portal within the platform. The site will compare and show the best available deal for a particular product search. It’s also possible to incorporate an agent’s own deal resulting out of his/her special rapport with a supplier. We are launching with air-ticketing. Hotel and other supplies will follow.”

Agents won’t have to remember multiple sign-in codes and passwords while using this integrated system and yet have the freedom to choose their own supplier. Currently supplier’s payment gateway is being used. It is possible to incorporate other multiple gateways, including an agent’s own payment gateway into the system.

The system is developed to work with or without GDS. Mr Eapen said: “Collective membership increases productivity and offers better negotiating powers with airlines. It will make more business sense for airlines to deal with us directly as they will be saving on GDS charge of $22 on each ticket.” I-TOP reduces member’s costs by overriding GDS (Global Distribution System) penalties imposed by some airlines like Lufthansa, British Airways, Ukrainian and Iberian.

New portal has created a level playing field alongside consolidators. Mr Eapen said: “Agents pay Rs 54,000(US$ 828.54) fees to IATA annually but do business through consolidators who pass on part of their PLB (Productivity Linked Bonus) earnings. I-TOPs big volumes will attract PLB from airlines and will be distributed proportionately among members.” Eapen foresees I-TOP to be a strong contender with 1000 members, in a year’s time.

IAAI has an exclusive contract with Verteil Technologies for access and distribution of NDC-listed airline products through its direct connect platform, VDC (Verteil Direct Connect), which is integrated with I-TOP.  Kerala Government funded Verteil Technologies is the first NDC (new distribution capability) enabled company in India.  It has Level 3 NDC capable certificate from IATA.

Sateesh Satchit, Chief Operating Officer, Verteil, said: “Major Full service carriers are on NDC program that gives complete access to full and rich content to sell airlines’ ancillary products. It lets an agent to tailor and personalise offers through access to real time product and fare data on its transparent, next-gen e-commerce shopping experience. For example, an agent can book a sky coach, two tickets of the four seats to make for a bed when the aircraft is light. It’s much better than many OTA (online Travel Agency)s and can be accessed through BSP.” Promotional fares by airlines are also seen real time, helping agents make bookings during those short offer periods.

Soon, hotels connected with airlines and eventually other products are expected to be brought onboard NDC.

Dedicated I-TOP team at IAAI is negotiating with lead consolidators as well as suppliers of air ticketing, ground transportation, accommodation, holiday packages for individuals, groups & MICE, cruises, car rentals, insurance, visa facilitation, currency exchange and other travel services.

Manish Synghal, Chairman I-TOP Committee, said: “Collective volume of business can make us the biggest marketplace and provides an excellent ground for direct negotiations with suppliers. IAAI being a non-profit organisation will pass on all benefits to its members.”

IAAI, the association, was started to defend privileges of small and medium agents in 2001. It won the legal battle challenging IATAs demand for a minimum bank guarantee of INR 2 million (US$ 3064) from each agent and stopped implementation of the scheme. In another legal fight in defence of right to commission on air tickets was won by IAAI in Kerala High Court and is pending implementation. The Association currently has 1200 IATA members and has an associate membership agreement with ETAA (Enterprising Travel Agents Association) which has non-IATA members.

Abdul Karim, Managing Director, Creative Travels, said: “The initiative of I-TOP, IAAIs online tool has high value once it’s featured well with multi faceted common online platform for trade partners to use and retain their identity with user friendly high-tech solutions for all their needs”.

IAAI membership is a pre-requisite to get onboard I-TOP.  Further, a member has to pay a fee of Rs 25,000(US$ 383.64) for joining and a fee of Rs 5000 (US$76.73) annually to access the online booking engine.

Eventually, I-TOP will be available for its non-IATA associate members too; extending best negotiated deals from suppliers. Mr Eapen said: “As the demand sets-in, IAAI is open to accepting worldwide travel agents as members, to come onboard I-TOP”.

Written by Anand & Madhura Katti

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