Travel agents that wish to belong to the Dutch Association of Travel Agents must adhere to a specific quality guarantee system, and the Hellenic Association of Travel & Tourism Agencies intends to implement a similar system in Greece.
Anna Anifanti, manager of the association here, says that her association had met with its Dutch counterpart some time ago and has used their quality guarantee system as the basics for a similar Greek system.
She says the Greek system is tailored to Greek tourism needs – the Dutch offices are mostly outgoing while Greek offices are mostly incoming, for example – and that “a quality system pilot project, with at least 10 Greek offices participating, will be put into effect before the end of the year.”
Besides studying and adopting the basics of the Dutch system, Ms Anifanti says that her association had sent questionnaires to some 4,000 Greek travel agencies and tour operators in order to get a clear idea of their needs (about 1,700 replied).
Although she held back on showing the Greek system, as it’s not yet complete, she did say that once in effect “the HATTA logo at a travel or tour operator office would guarantee quality and assurance.”
In essence, she says that the quality system ensures that advisors of any HATTA member office will satisfy specific quality requirements. These would include the availability of professionally trained staff and access to sufficient information sources to provide good travel advice.
Ms Anifanti adds that once the program was up and running, the association would promote it through educational seminars and through media advertising. She also says that most likely the private sector, or possible ELOT (Hellenic Organization for Standardization), would handle the overall inspections.
At the recent HATTA conference on the subject, one of the main speakers, Walter Schut, a representative of Dutch Association of Travel Agents (ANVR), spoke to Greek travel agents and outlined the importance of a quality system for travel agencies and included some of the requirements of being a member of his association (see box).
He added that once the system was set in place his association had lost the members that failed to accept the quality system, but that the members in good standing were pleased with the overall results.
A survey commissioned in 2005 by the Dutch association found that 47% of all consumers questioned had a spontaneous awareness of the association. With assisted awareness of the association (“we’re a travel-related…”) the awareness jumped to 85% (although somewhat lower in the 18-24 age group: 64%).
When purchasing travel, 38% of all questioned said they would check that a provider is an association member, and 29 % said they would never book with a non-member.
“Looking just at the last percentage, you can see that 29% of all agencies would certainly not want to lose those 29% of possible customers,” said Mr. Schut.
Basic Quality Prerequisites Followed by ANVR Members
All travel companies must:
- be a member of a Travel Refund Guarantee Fund;
- be of good standing, as proven by a Certificate of Good Behaviour issued by the Department of Justice within the past three months;
- provide a business plan including financial forecasts for the next 2 years, if a new business;
- have a specific annual turnover; if a tour operator, of at least €500,000;
- demonstrate to the satisfaction of the association that the business and the persons in its employ hold the relevant professional qualifications, permits and licences necessary for their activities.
A tour operator in particular must:
- offer package tour programs lasting more than one day under its own name;
- obtain basic environmental product certification within six months after becoming a member of the ANVR;
- submit its monthly booking figures to the ANVR for statistical purposes, once a member.
Travel agents in particular must:
- mediate for and advise consumers, and book travel products on their behalf;
- take out liability insurance in accordance with the ANVR rules for travel agent insurance once a member;
- comply with the ANVR quality standards for travel agents, in terms of booking facilities, staff training, proper complaints procedures, etc.
An air ticketing agency or business travel agency in particular must:
- mainly mediate for and advise business customers and mainly book scheduled air tickets and other travel products on their behalf;
- be registered as an IATA approved agent.