Whether I’m planning a meeting with the CEO at my local RTO, trying to increase uptake of my product from FIT’s through IBO’s or reading the latest newsletter from TNZ – it seems one thing is clear, we love acronyms here in the tourism industry.

The use of acronyms is thought to be a great way of accelerating discussions when conversing with experienced industry professionals, however I’ve come to realise it is all too easy to slip into using these abbreviations in a context when the meaning is not fully understood.

Many of my recent interactions with small and start-up tourism businesses have highlighted how using such acronyms really does ostracise many from the conversation.

In my first draft of this article I had very much concentrated on the need to raise the level of understanding from many of our ‘less informed operators,’ however, after a number of wearisome, yet humorous conversations , I’ve rethought my strategy.

In the research leading up to writing this article, I was very vigilant in avoiding making an embarrassing mistake and misinforming people as to the meaning of an acronym. In my thorough research, I decided I would approach the industry organisations most knowledgeable about each acronym in the New Zealand and Australia. To save embarrassment I did make it clear that I will not name the individuals or organisations to whom I spoke. What did become apparent is the lack of synergy between the use of certain terms.

Many laughed at the acronym ‘FIT’ as being an ‘easy one,’ although it resulted in the most confusion of all. Responses as to what the initials stood for included ‘Free Independent Traveller,’ and ‘Foreign Independent Traveller’.

Moving aside from the initials, I asked each organisation to describe the term.  Again, real disparity seemed to prevail. Only two organisations described the meaning in a concise way, some found it difficult to explain, one representative even openly asked me to hold on the line whilst they checked Wikipedia.

I was surprised with this trail of events to say the least. If the organisations that we willingly turn to, as experts in their field, don’t seem to understand the acronyms we utilise so regularly, what hope do the rest of us have?

It was my original intention to use this opportunity to explain a few of these terms. I’ll now be content in my cowardly admission that if the ‘experts’ can’t get it right – I think I’ll opt out on this one. One suggestion I will put forward, however, is that we should really try to avoid using TLA’s.

I best explain that one… ‘TLA’ = Three Letter Acronyms

One thought on “What Does That Stand For?

  1. Great post. I am often caught out using OTA as in Online Travel Agent, but to be honest there are not many travel agents who are actually offline.

    Is any business that sells accommodation technically an OTA or does it have to be flights & accommodation and the odd cruise.
    Especially since famous OTA’s like Expedia, I don’t believe require the same type of traditional licensing.

    Alternatives for OTA.
    Open Travel Alliance
    On-Time Arrival
    Older than average
    Obligatory Thug attack (gaming industry apparently).

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