You Decide

The travel industry needs to police itself

By: Duke Anderson

Allow me to steal a line from the Fox News Channel: ‘We Report, You Decide.” Please see our “Letters” section below. While I am not taking either side on this particular situation, a good point is raised here. It is up to travel professionals as well as the organizations that support them to be their own police force. Each of us must do what he can to protect the dignity and integrity of the travel industry, and we applaud Ms. Benedict for caring so deeply about her profession. I look forward to hearing what you have to say.
Card Mill?

I have just returned from a Seminar at Sea on RCCL’s Navigator of the Seas. At this seminar something came to my attention that I am very concerned about. There were 30 plus “agents” at the seminar from American Travel Bureau (ATB). After listening to them I became more and more concerned about the legitimacy of their operations.

I worked part-time for Crossroads Travel for six months before applying for an IATAN card, and when I did apply I was turned down, as I did not work enough hours or make the necessary $5,000 per year. After increasing my hours and income, I reapplied and was given the card. This made me believe that the card was truly earned.

After doing some research on ATB, I find that anyone who pays the the requested amount can become an Independent Travel Agent. It seems to me that if we want to keep the level of respectability in the travel industry high that there should be a process of identifying the qualifications of people who apply for an ID Card.

It appears as if ATB works in the same way as an ordinary pyramid. They were talking about signing up clients as independent agents so that they can get the best pricing on travel. They admitted that most of the people they sign up as agents will never sell travel, they just use the card for additional travel discounts. This just doesn’t seem ethical to me.

Shirley Carol Benedict
Crossroads Travel, Bellevue, Wash.

Mr. John Smith, CEO of ATB,
issued the following response:

The American Travel Bureau is a small agency, but we have four years experience working with independent travel agents (ITAs). ITAs are our only sellers of travel. We are members of ASTA and adhere strictly to the ASTA code of ethics. We are a member of the Better Business Bureau and belong to ARTA. We are also an ARC, IATA and CLIA appointed agency.

ATB employs a small staff of 15 travel professionals. We do not pay commissions or bonuses to recruit ITAs. We do pay a training income to those that train and help others become a home-based independent agent. Our agents can choose to help ATB expand by recruiting agents, and our innovative business plan allows us to pass the savings for training others on to the agents who do the work.

I would like to address one primary concern of Ms. Benedict’s, and that is IATAN eligibility requirements. The American Travel Bureau does not provide our outside independent travel agents with an IATAN card for $250. We do have a home-study program, and upon successful completion, our outside agent will receive a certificate of completion and an American Travel Bureau Independent Travel Agent card. Also, as it states in our promotional material on our Web site (www., it provides our ITAs the opportunity to earn their CLIA and/or IATAN credentials. Our ITAs must individually sell at least $60,000 in commissionable travel per year, attend mandatory seminars and adhere to all the criteria and requirements identified for independent contractors by IATAN.

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