Part of seamless travel is about reducing stress by providing travellers with the right information such as visa requirements and health alerts. International Air Transport Association (IATA) partnered with Amadeus to develop a new script that would give traditional travel agent a new way to bring value by consolidating key travel requirements for travellers.
Travel Information Manual / Timatic Script
IATA Netherlands Data Publications (INDP) has been publishing travel information for the air passenger industry since 1963. The Travel Information Manual (TIM) is the world’s leading and most comprehensive source for air travel requirements. Behind the scenes, many agents (including airline offices, travel agents, corporate accounts, tour operators, GDS and government agencies) work together to contribute updated entry requirements for over 216 countries worldwide.
The TIM lists information on subjects such as that are vital for travel agents to accurately inform passengers prior to arrival at a new destination:
- Passport – time validity by country, residence requirements, duration of stay
- Visas – requirements and types
- Health – current country/region health alerts and vaccination requirements
- Airport Tax – payment recommendation by traveller at time of booking, departure or arrival airport
- Customs Regulations – import / export of goods and small pets by a passenger
- Currency Regulations – import / export by a passenger
- Latest news – key regulation changes by country
The Timatic Script by Amadeus’s chief objective is to consolidate this information from the TIM database for traditional travel agents to easily navigate and communicate all the requirements to passengers via printout, itinerary or email.
How Does It Work?
After registering the IATA account to use Timatic Script, agents can easily retrieve the TIM information by entering the following into the Amadeus reservation system through the web client or terminal:
- Origin and destination airport, date of travel and selected passport information (expiry date and country of issuance) or
- passenger name record (PNR) information o retrieve relevant information.
The annual subscription is €149 (USD$167, £129) for the first 200 transactions with fees for each additional search.
Advantage to using the Timatic Script
Expedia, Orbitz and other online travel retailers have been taking market share away from traditional travel agents since 2005. At its peak, online travel retailers had over 80% of all consumers’ travel booking. However, traditional travel agents are making a comeback as the American Society of Travel Agents (ASTA) reported that 22% of consumers booked through with a live person. This is the highest share reported over the last three years.
Millennials, in particular, are leading the way as they look for clarity over all the travel options available. While many use online travel retailers to book simple trips, they are more comfortable with using a traditional travel agent to book complex or specific trips. Negative feedback on online travel retailers during travel disruption also drove millennials to try other methods of booking.
Online travel retailers typically warn travellers on certain travel restrictions but request travellers to check all visa, customs, health, currency and passport requirements themselves. Travellers, in turn, are frustrated when they realize they do not have the right information at departure. The Timatic Script by Amadeus reduces the time required to find and research all the requirements and give travellers a ease of mind on booking long, international or complex trips. Anxiety reduction will lead to higher satisfaction and repeat business opportunities for traditional travel agents.
There are not many online tools that provide travellers with a comprehensive updated view of travel requirements and regulations by country. Many travellers are asked to go to their home country’s government website for additional information which adds time.
From the airline front, many including British Airways, United Airlines, Delta Air Lines and Air Asia are using a solution called “TravelDoc”. It is created by ICTS Europe Systems Limited based in London, United Kingdom and is similar to the Timatic Script discussed above. Data sources are taken from similar ones as the TIM database. Singapore’s Changi Airport and Hong Kong International Airport are also using kiosks with this system with the TravelDoc tool built-in.
Seamless Travel Future
As more people take longer trips outside of their home countries, accurate and timely updated regulatory information will to play an increasingly bigger role in where and how they will book their trips. Relevant information should be communicated to the traveller during booking, close to departure date, during travel and after the trip is completed. This is important in achieving a seamless travel experience. Both traditional and online travel agents should invest resources in this area to add value while reducing anxiety for travellers.