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IAAI is all set to launch i-Top (Indian Travel-Agents Own Portal), a new revenue model

The IATA Agents Association of India (IAAI) will be organising its Annual Convention – ICON 2017 – this September in Kochi. Biji Eapen, president, IAAI speaks on the convention theme and the topics of discussion

When and where is the convention being held?

Biji Eapen

The IAAI National Convention – ICON 2017 will be held as a three nights/ four days’ event from September 14 to 17 at the picturesque Cherai Beach located just 25 km from Kochi city.

What is the main theme of the convention?

The Theme for the Convention is – “Travel Agents by 2030 – Protocols Redefined”.

What are the issues that will be discussed?

As travel agents are just coming to grips with the newly implemented GST, it will form one of the prime issues for discussion since airline commission is going to be crucial for their survival. The additional BSP charge of US$ 30 per month imposed by IATA since April 2017 has come at a time when airlines are still denying commission to their own appointed travel agents. As implied by the ICON 2017 theme, IAAI is all set to launch i-Top (Indian Travel-Agents Own Portal), a new revenue  model that would safeguard the interests of  its  members from all the present challenging market conditions.

Today, in this ‘zero’ commission scenario, i-Top will provide users a guaranteed opportunity to earn substantial commission for the sale of NDC airline tickets and also significant remuneration for other services like cancellation, refund, rerouting, date change etc, for which airlines used to charge penalties without giving a share to travel agents. The direct connectivity to airlines will also result in a substantial reduction in Agent Debit Memos (ADMs), since in an NDC environment, the airline makes the offer directly to travel agents.

i-Top truly represents the changes that are taking place in the Global Information Technology and it can be integrated with IATA functionalities, BSP billing and payment systems or interlining with the NDC and the XML models.

How will i-Top offer flexibility to member agents?

i-Top shall be integrated with overseas medical insurance companies, forex, rail & bus reservations, tour packages, cruise, car rental and all such facilities. i-Top will also facilitate consolidators, OTAs or even any member agents to sell their own products through i-Top to the network users and the user agents will have the flexibility to display all such related services, compare quality, services, trustworthiness, pricing and remunerative benefits that will help them to promote products without any compromise.

The agent-friendly i-Top offers flexibility for B2B, B2C and B2D and is openly accessible to IATA agents in the ‘Active Member’ category and, with certain limitations, also to the ‘Trade Partner’ category members (tour operators and non-IATA agents).

What about your contract with Verteil Technologies?

IAAI has recently signed 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. This NDC-aligned innovative tool allows i-Top users to display and connect airline inventories directly to its host reservation system providing access to availability, pricing, shopping and ticketing plus facilitating ancillary sales of excess baggage, visas, chauffeur service and more, but within the purview of IATA financial guarantee and remittance through the prevailing weekly payment system.

How many IAAI members are expected to attend?

Around 400 members are expected to participate.

How do you think GST will impact the tour operators in India?

The tariff-based GST slabs that have been imposed on hotels is going to increase the accommodation costs which will have a domino effect on tour costs that could deter many a tourist. It can be said that the  reduction of the erstwhile nine per cent Service Tax to five per cent under GST on tour packages will be the silver lining in the cloud.