UFTAA’s Golden Jubilee Congress brought together thinking heads from 25 member associations from 30 countries to discuss IATA-related matters and better working of the organisation.
Sunil Kumar, President, UFTAA, has been reelected for a second term at the Golden Jubilee Congress of UFTAA in Istanbul, Turkey. Held at the Hilton Istanbul Bosphorus from Nov 25-26, 2016, the congress had elected its new board at the Annual General Meeting, headed by Kumar, consisting of two new member associations – Nepal Association of Tour and Travel Agents (NATTA) and Association of Turkish Travel Agencies (TURSAB). Celebrations galore It was TURSAB which invited UFTAA to hold its congress in Istanbul and hosted the members in the city. The theme of the Congress was ‘Celebrate the Connect’. Speaking on the sidelines of the Congress, Kumar said, “Fifty years don’t happen by accident. They happen by design, investing time, being active and by continuously having people associated. We will now try and connect the associations. Our focus is not merely on cooperation, but on collaboration. Thus we would like associations to connect and actively be connected, to make sure that UFTAA can service countries which need our support. We are glad that we have been elected unanimously. The team led by me continues for another year and I am thankful for the general assembly for asking us to continue. We have a couple of new entrants on board as well.” YossefFatael, Vice President, UFTAA and Chairman, Airlines and IATA matters, UFTAA, claimed that the Golden Jubilee Congress is a milestone for the association and credited Kumar for his leadership. “Ever since Sunil Kumar took the role of President of UFTAA, it is rising again. It’s a celebration of history as well as our future. The event is seeing how UFTAA is coming back and taking the centre position again in the market.”
The election and Annual General Meeting was followed by a gala opening ceremony, which saw in attendance the heads from all the member associations of UFTAA. Ramesh Marwah, CEO, UFTAA, said, “We have managed to bring in over 25 member associations, representing 30 countries. The best part is that we have successfully been able to establish a connect among all the associations. The Annual General Meeting was a full house, and the opening ceremony was great. Even on the second day, I was glad to see a full house for business sessions, where some very important subjects were discussed. The presentations were very valuable to the members and we saw some very passionate and professional inputs to address the concerns of the members. I am sure the UFTAA platform has been used in an appropriate manner. This forum is all about connecting, bringing together the strength and addressing the issues in a way that benefits the entire membership.” Agenda on hand One of the few major initiatives that UFTAA board has taken up includes the setting up of two new committees. Kumar revealed, “We will have one committee on IATA and airline matters, which will be headed by YossefFatael, VP, UFTAA. The other committee will be called the Global Tourism Committee, which will be headed by BasaranUlusoy, President, TURSAB. Apart from that, we will have our global office in Doha, Qatar, and will be operating from there, mainly to have a stronger foothold in the Middle East and Africa. We would like to promote the cause of tourism and connect tourism with peace. We are going to grow with all our member associations and will be getting into education as well as MICE in a much bigger way.” Kumar revealed that they deliberated on four subjects. “We discussed at length about IATA matters. Our focus is on preparing the members for the historic resolutions, which have been recently passed at the PA conference, pertaining to what is currently called resolution 8xx, which might just change the dynamics of the travel industry. NewGen ISS is the second area which UFTAA will work upon. The third area is to connect the associations, allow them to work in collaboration, so that they can share best practices and optimise being a part of UFTAA. The fourth vertical is tourism.” Fatael explained why it is necessary for the association, as well as the travel agents around the world, to focus on IATA’s new policies. “IATA and airlines will play the role of banks and agents would be supervised real time based on credit management and credit risk. The new model of travel agents’ accreditation by IATA aims to bring many more agents to the market. It is a very confusing situation for the existing agents, who are already struggling to survive. Now we might see a flood, because whoever will use the passenger credit card or upload funds in advance with Easypay (IATA’s new payment tool) can become an accredited agent. Thus we need to compete with direct marketing of airlines themselves as well new players coming into the market. There will be many other aspects and the market would become a little bit chaotic. However, a chaotic situation could be a good opportunity for the travel agents to be relevant again, as people need someone to tell them what to do. There are many opportunities, and not just threats to the travel industry. I think that the vibe and the atmosphere in the congress would bring some hope that good things will happen,” he said.