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The Travel Technology Association held its first Policy & Innovation Showcase Wednesday in Washington D.C., giving members the opportunity to meet with policymakers, media and the like at the Rayburn House Office Building on Capitol Hill.

Laura Chadwick, president and CEO of Travel Tech, emphasized the importance of the organization’s role in Washington and in state capitals across the country as it seeks to advocate and educate on travel technology.

“I’d like to say that all travel companies are becoming technology companies,” said Chadwick during an interview with PhocusWire. “It’s inevitable – this digital revolution.”

In the past, policymaking has been focused on more traditional travel-focused topics such as physical transportation, Chadwick said. But there’s a shift ongoing toward technology regulation. “Right now in Washington, D.C. – and this has been the case for a few years now – there seems to be a sort of a backlash against the technology industry,” said Chadwick.

That’s brought on a slew of concerns for the travel industry – many of which Travel Tech is hoping to address. There are plenty of issues top of mind for the association including the reform of Section 230 (the Communications Decency Act) and the American Privacy Rights Act, among others.

One area the organization has been particularly vocal about in recent months is the transparency of ancillary service fees. Last month, the Department of Transportation issued a final ruling requiring airlines and ticket agents to tell consumers from the jump what fees they will be charged when making a purchase. But nearly a month after the DOT’s April 24th ruling, Travel Tech maintains that the DOT has made a mistake in the issuance’s fine print.

“We believe that they’ve made an error on how this ancillary fee information will be conveyed to consumer-facing travel agencies like Booking and Expedia and brick and mortar travel agents as well,” Chadwick said.

“For years some airlines have been holding back this information as a strategic business decision,” she added. “But now the department is requiring them to do so. The way the department has done it, they [place] this liability on us to make sure that we’re showing this information, but the way the department has done it … they’ve not given us the tools to comply.”

At the time of the April ruling, the organization said it issued comments on the ruling. Travel Tech said it had advocated that airlines should be required to provide ancillary fee information to ticket agents and intermediaries including global distribution systems – not just to consumer-facing ticket agents as had been posed by the DOT. However, in its final ancillary fee ruling, the DOT declined to include the stipulation.

“Unfortunately, by not including GDSs, the very purpose of this rule-making will be undermined, making it harder for ticket agents to inform consumers about the cost of ancillary services,” Chadwick said at the time of the ruling in April. “Had airlines been required to provide ancillary fee data to all ticket agents, transparency for consumers could have been achieved in months, not years.”

Sabre, Airbnb, Tripadvisor, Expedia, Booking Holdings, Amadeus, Travelport and Chase Travel Group were among those companies exhibiting at or sponsoring the event, as were advocate members Group Travel Odyssey, AirHelp and DreamGuest. Phocuswright also attended in its role as the media partner to the Travel Tech Association for the event.

Also at the event, Chadwick presented awards to congress members U.S. House of Representatives Committee on Transportation and Infrastructure: Chairman Sam Graves, a Republican from Missouri, and Congressional Travel and Tourism Caucus Co-Chair Dina Titus, a Democrat from Nevada. The two were selected by the association’s board of directors for their “achievements in empowering traveler choice and championing travel innovation.”



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