The Commission for Aviation Regulation’s 15th August deadline for 31st October licence renewals was met by all but four applicants (all overseas companies) and a number of licence holders have decided not to renew – either because they are ceasing to trade or due to rationalisation of existing licences.
One major tour operator will no longer trade in the Republic of Ireland and will therefore not renew its licence. Three other, relatively small, companies are ceasing to trade, while a fifth is also not renewing but has links with a major company. In addition, four companies that currently hold a tour operator and a travel agency licence have decided to continue with just one licence – in one case with a tour operator licence and the other three with a travel agency licence.
A spokesman for the Commission for Aviation Regulation told Irish Travel Trade News that the CAR believes that most of the 190 or so licence applications will be approved without difficulty. “We shouldn’t have more than two or three ‘problem’ renewal applications. After the agency collapses of 2008/2009 there were a number of retirements in 2010. While there have been a few retirements this year they have been planned and orderly. The industry is now lean and mean – and, while projections for 2012 may be down, the remaining companies are generally financially OK.
“The online licence renewal system is a lot better than the previous paper system and it clearly shows the level of completeness of any application. There were a couple of technical issues: firstly, the speed of entry into some fields was a bit slow as projected turnovers are inputted into 12 boxes – and our IT people are looking at that.
“Another was that in 20% of cases applicants ‘rushed‘ to print off the signature page – and forgot to actually submit their fully completed application! We may add in a ‘Make sure you submit before you log out’ type of message.
“One point that we would emphasise is that if a travel agent spends a five-figure sum on a back office system, they really do also need to get the training to get the best value out of it. Those who look at their figures regularly are able to make any changes required – before the bank manager tells them.
“We also had a half-hour discussion with the ITAA Board at its August meeting and were happy to exchange views on using the licensing system. We also emphasised that if the ITAA is to reconsider a collective bond for next spring then timing is critical and they need to start now.”
The possibility of a renewed ITAA collective bond faces a number of challenges, not least the reduced numbers of members and the reduced numbers of those members who availed of the last collective bond. While a campaign to attract new and previous members is underway, the prospect of getting possible collective bond members up from 50 to around 100 – and including some of the larger agencies that have opted to cease ITAA membership – will be a challenge.
In addition, Ace has clearly stated its intention to withdraw from the market, while Travel & General may be quite happy to deal directly with 50+ individual agencies, and take their individual fees, as it did this year.