RAISING THEIR GAME
ISSUE #26 | THE PIE REVIEW | 39
want to agree to
compete on terms
such as good practice
Associations offer agencies a forum to discuss market
concerns, and to come together to hash out problems that
they might have with the way that they are working.
As Aslantatar explains, associations like TEAG have
become important hubs where agencies can communicate
and set standards for themselves. This has been true with
the way agencies deal with the controversial practice of
discounting – which has been causing problems in countries
like Turkey and Korea.
“What good, credible agencies want is to agree to com-pete
on terms such as good practice, the level of service
they offer to the students, the counselling power they have,
the professional approach they offer to the students. They
don’t want to discount the fees that are given to them by the
schools,” Aslantatar states.
“But some agencies cut through this, they want to be com-petitive
and sometimes offer huge discounts, to steal busi-ness
from other agencies. This is one of the main issues.”
According to Aslantatar, associations are able to mediate
in these situations, and help members to find a path through
which they all can benefit from.
Being signed up to an association can also help agencies
access new markets that would have previously been off
limits without endorsement.
Sushil Sukhwani is director of Edwise, one of India’s
largest and most successful education agencies. He explains
that certain markets such as the US were difficult to access
without being a part of an association – even with Edwise’s
impressive reputation. Edwise is now a member of AIRC,
and Sukhwani is on the association’s board.
“The prime reason I joined was to get contracts with
respected universities, because they wanted to work with
reputable agents. Note at that time my company was in
the 20 plus years of being an agency and was recognised
as an industry leader in most parts of the world. And yet
I still needed some endorsement from a body like AIRC,”
The current crisis shows the importance of having politi-cal
clout. At the time of writing, agencies in the study travel
sector are facing huge problems with cash flow because
students are demanding refunds for cancelled courses. As
already outlined, consumer laws are the ultimate authority
when it comes to how agencies operate.
Under current consumer laws, agencies are expected to
reimburse students, something they cannot realistically do
financially. FELCA’s Paolo Barilari explains that his fede-ration
of agency associations are set to lobby governme-nts
around the world to temporarily halt these consumer
“FELCA is trying to lobby our own governments, to say,
in this special situation, in such an emergency, forget to
protect at the end of the consumer, and accept a system of
vouchers… This is the only way not to collapse and destroy
the industry,” he tells The PIE.
These are not normal market concerns. FELCA’s ability
to change the way governments respond to refunds could
prove critical not just for study travel agencies but for the en-tire
sector. As FELCA advocates for its members, the power
of global alliances could be set to become even stronger.
“Students and their
families can contact
ARSAA... to report
Gabriela Ardito, CEO, ARSAA