The ITAA presidential election will take place in a couple of weeks time, so ITTN took the opportunity to speak to both candidates to find out what they thought about some of the issues. We asked them six identical questions. First in the ITTN hot seat is current ITAA President, Michael Doorley of Shandon Travel.
This interview was lightly edited for clarity.
Q. How can the ITAA encourage younger staff members to be involved?
It’s a problem we’ve had for years and we need a kind of new way of thinking about it.
One of the ideas I would suggest is that we invite two young staff from the various agencies to sit on the board of the ITAA at their meetings and to observe what’s going on and to listen – and to make their input. Because these are generally the people with their sleeves rolled up, sitting at the counter, so they could have a contribution to make to it. I’d rotate that around to the regions every time there’s a board meeting. So you get young to start talking about it; they get to see what’s on and hopefully would say, yeah, I could have a look at being a member of the board later on.
Secondly, owners and managers all receive emails from the ITAA. I can’t think they share them with staff; we should encourage them to get it out to staff as soon as they arrive in so the staff know what’s going on.
And thirdly, because of the way things are going – information webinars and maybe have subjects or the topics orientated towards younger people, and they could be drawn up by young people for young people.
So I think if you put three of those together, we’ll begin to get an interest from young people to say, “Hey, this is something worth participating in. And maybe down the line, I might even be on the board!”
Q. Is there a case for a few regional meetings each year?
Physical regional meetings? No. I had experience of attending as president regional meetings where you have have two or three or four people turning up. But in the age that we’re in, by all means Zoom meetings! And again, not to have them too frequently because experience is they don’t get good attendances. But certainly going down the road to have zoom regional meetings would be helpful.
Q. Information is important. How would you regularly update members?
I’d have more communication after board meetings by email – and also the regional zoom meetings. It’s something we’re not doing at the moment. And I think there’s a lack of – a gap there – for more communication to members. I would think also through travel media, like yourselves, that there should be more interaction there and maybe have sections there or specific questions answered. And thirdly also social media: that’s where a lot of the communication and information is at the minute. So we should be using more social media efforts to get out to all our people. And finally using the groupings like World’s Choice and Travel Centres – they can be good means of disseminating information as well.
Q. Why are you standing for the position of President?
I suppose I have a passion for the ITAA, first of all.
I was at the very first meeting of the ITAA – I won’t tell you how far back that was! I’ve been involved ever since, apart from being the president and treasurer and on [various] boards.
Every industry needs a good, strong representative body – and the ITAA does that. And though I hadn’t anticipated what kind of year it was going to be, but having gone into it the board and the executive have put in such hard work that I don’t want to leave it halfway through.
I want to continue the work and I’m heading up a few different committees within that; I want to continue that work and see if there are areas that I think we can improve.
So I would like to give it another year. I can give it the time. My face isn’t probably as known as much as Paul’s [Paul Hackett] would be, but I’m always available for interviews, be it on radio, television or whatever. So I wanted to give it a good go and finish off what I’d have started and see it through.
Q. What are your 2/3 key things you would like to change in the ITAA?
One thing I’d like is that we have better statistical information collated, rather than relying on anecdotal evidence of this is selling and that’s selling; this is happening, these are the figures, whatever.
And sometimes we only get some figures by doing occasional monkey surveys. I would prefer it if we could have some statistical system set up – whether it’s to do with our applications, or we we might even get that information from CAR (Commission for Aviation Regulation).
They have a lot of information that could be good for us, and if it wasn’t breaking GDPR rules then we could get that information from them. So: better technology within the executive of the ITAA would be a help.
I’d also like to see as we reviewing the whole structure, terms and conditions of membership and standards of behaviour. A general review: we haven’t looked at it for a number of years and here we are in 2021 in a different era. And I think we need to look at ourselves critically and see are there areas where we can improve.
Q. How would you encourage non members to join the ITAA?
We need to make the ITAA so recognisable with consumers as the “safe members to book through” and “the one where you are looked after properly,” and that the badge of the ITAA or the logo that we have on our doors and our stationary – that it actually means something.
So if consumers are very aware of it and very conscious of it, then every other travel agent who was not a member would become aware of it and say, “Hey, I gotta be a member of this association because that’s what consumers are looking for.”
We should be able to go out to members who have left and bring them back into and try to encourage them to come in. And again, through communication with social media and at functions and what have you, chasing on members and saying “look, there’s fantastic work being done.”
We need to have volume. We need to have size. And becoming a member of the association you’re helping that. So you’re helping us when we’re talking to governments and talking to anybody else. At the minute – even as it stands – we represent the whole trade when we’re talking to the government and we should try and convince non-members to come on board. You can be part of this and you’re helping find a better solution for all travel agents.
Ballot papers have been posted to members and they must be received back by Thursday 10 June.
The result will be announced on Tuesday 15 June and the AGM of the ITAA is on Thursday 17 June.
You can read what Paul Hackett thinks of the issues tomorrow.