The 43rd World Congress of the United Federation of Travel Agents Associations (UFTAA) took place in Kathmandu, Nepal, in late November this year. More than one hundred delegates from across the world were in attendance. UFTAA represents 80 national and multinational travel agent associations spanning the globe.

The three days devoted to business issues covered a wide spectrum of topics of concern to the world’s travel agents. Several informative presentations were made by members to illustrate how imaginative applications of new technologies offer opportunities for travel agents to position themselves more advantageously in a rapidly-changing market place.

Of particular significance was the determination made by the federation’s members to take firmer control over their affairs, with a view to strengthening the position of travel agents who, in recent years, have gained the impression that sight has been lost of the true value of their services to the industry’s suppliers.

In that connection, a three-year plan is being developed as a matter or urgency by a group of members, for the board’s consideration and approval. That plan will flesh out more services that can be made available to member associations and will seek to stabilize the federation’s financial platform by making it progressively less dependent on third-party support. Consideration will be given to offering new products of value to travel agents, where UFTAA considers it can deliver better value than those presently on offer.

In a wide-ranging debate on the direction in which the travel agent sector should be moving, it was the consensus that now is the time for UFTAA to assert for its members a more independent stance. Travel agents should be exercising more authority over their own affairs instead of allowing third parties, whose legitimate areas of interests do not and cannot fully overlap those of travel agents, to encroach on areas that would be better run by agents themselves. Vocational training was mentioned specifically as an area best coordinated by travel agents.

In particular, some members stressed that, increasingly, when dealing with air transport related problems, they receive a more constructive response from the airlines themselves by dealing one-on-one with them. Those members advised their colleagues to try the direct approach for themselves.

At the conclusion of the business agenda, the UFTAA president, William Tan of NATAS (Singapore), observed that this congress marked a significant and promising change in direction of UFTAA. He looked forward to leading a more proactive federation but stressed that change can be achieved only by hard work by those who had undertaken to effect the reforms wanted by the congress.