20 important travel industry abbreviations you need to know as you start your travel business

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When you’re new to the travel industry, there’s a lot to learn. The thing that makes many new agents’ heads spin is the huge amount of travel-related acronyms they’re expected to learn and use regularly as they book trips for clients and communicate with suppliers. To help you talk the talk as a new travel agent, we put together a list of the top must-know travel industry abbreviations to get you started. Ready to dive in?

Tips for memorizing travel industry abbreviations

With so much to learn, it’s impossible to memorize every travel industry abbreviation on day one. Here are our best tips for making the process easier:

  • Create flashcards. The best way to learn is through repetition! Write out flashcards on index cards and run through them whenever you have a free moment. If you’re on hold with a supplier, that’s the perfect chance to run through a few flashcards sitting next to you!
  • Don’t underestimate the power of chunking. Chunking is a memorization technique in which an individual breaks down information into smaller groups or units.  For example, instead of memorizing a 10-digit number like “5834568971,” memorize 5834, 568, 971.  This trick is helpful with memorizing strings of letters as well.
  • Use association. Another memorization method is to associate what you want to be able to recall with what you already remember.  For instance, if you want to remember to follow up with your client, “Sam,” on July 4th, you may think of [“Uncle”] Sam and Independence Day.
  • Visualize drawing the abbreviation. When we use positive imagery to memorize things, our brains tend to retain information more.  Picture yourself on an exotic island drawing these abbreviations in the sand.  Who wouldn’t want to remember this?  As an agent, being familiar with as many travel industry abbreviations as possible will come in handy and save you precious research time.
  • Use the tools available to you from your host agency. A huge benefit of working with a host agency is the education and resources they provide as you’re getting started. Instead of simply memorizing what a CLIA is, watch your host’s video training about booking cruises and how CLIA benefits you – information in context is much more likely to stick.

Travel abbreviations you need to know as a new travel agent

AI – All-Inclusive

This term generally pertains to eating plans, meaning meals, snacks, and beverages (even alcohol) are included in the charges.  All-inclusive resorts also include gratuities and most activities.

ASTA – The American Society of Travel Advisors

The American Society of Travel Advisors (ASTA) is a professional trade organization that represents, promotes, and sets the standards for travel agents, suppliers, and those affiliated with the travel industry. This is a great resource for travel industry news, learning the ins and outs of being a travel advisor, networking, and verifying the legitimacy of travel schools and suppliers. Learn more about the ASTA on the American Society of Travel Advisors website.

travel industry abbreviations and terms

BTA – Business Travel Account

A company can start a corporate credit card program to purchase air, rail, and associated transaction fees with a  “master” credit card.  This is called a Business Travel Account (BTA) and allows employees to make purchases with one company card instead of having to issue cards to each individual employee.

CLIA – Cruise Lines International Association

The Cruise Lines International Association (CLIA) educates its members on cruising and distributes a CLIA number to travel agencies.  This number is recognized across the travel industry except when dealing with direct air bookings.

CXR – Carrier

When booking trips, some airlines are referred to as “carriers” and use the travel industry abbreviation “CXR.”

FAM Trip – Familiarization Trip

FAM trip stands for “familiarization trip” and is similar to Seminars at Sea (SAS).  Travel agents can visit certain destinations in order to obtain first-hand knowledge of places to share with their clients. Having personal experience and being familiar with specific destination details can increase an agent’s sales. These trips vary in price and sometimes come at a discount or special rate.

FIT – Foreign Independent Travel

FIT is an acronym for “foreign independent travel,” designed for those who desire a trip that does not follow a set itinerary or require a tour guide.

GDS – Global Distribution System

A Global Distribution System (GDS) is said to be the “brain of the travel industry.”  A GDS is a computerized network system that gives real-time data to airlines, hotels, car rental companies, travel agencies, and other travel-related businesses.

GMT – Greenwich Mean Time

All of the world’s time zones are based on Greenwich Mean Time (GMT), solar-based time stemming from Greenwich, England.  These time zones ensure bookings are accurate no matter where clients live and/or travel.

GST – Goods & Services Tax

Accommodations, tour packages, transportation services, and other travel-related fees (including those for meeting facilities) have an added tax known as the Goods & Services Tax (GST).  This tax is levied in many places around the globe and these charges may be reclaimed.  Having knowledge of regulations regarding GST is highly encouraged.

IATA – International Air Transport Association

The International Air Transport Association (IATA) “represents, leads, and serves the airline industry” in various ways.  For agents, resources are available to provide a firm foundation in travel, teach the skills needed to work within the industry, and give your clients remarkable service.

IBTA – International Business Travel Association

The International Business Travel Association (IBTA) is a global business travel association that connects travel managers worldwide and allows them to share knowledge and ideas on business travel issues.

LDW – Loss Damage Waiver

Loss Damage Waiver (LDW) is supplemental insurance pertaining to vehicle rentals, theft coverage, and acts of vandalism.  This type of insurance is recommended instead of insurance that only covers basic accidents.

MK – Market Number

All online booking tools (OBTs) issue a code at the time a reservation is made.  This is a way to track Passenger Name Records (PNRs) and fulfillment. MKs should never be removed once they appear on the PNR.

NR – Non-refundable

Any fare that does not allow for a refund is non-refundable, or NR.  In many cases, non-refundable tickets may be changed for a set fee and the difference in the ticket price.

Online Booking Tool - travel industry abbreviation

OBT – Online Booking Tool

An online booking tool (OBT) is a web-based platform that streamlines the booking process by helping travel agents save time and money. OBTs help travel managers keep track of policies, contracts, suppliers, and more.  OBTs can also help agents reach higher compliance ratings.

OSI – Other Service Information

Other Service Information (OSI) is any Global Distribution System (GDS) entry that does not require further traveler action.  Examples of OSI are contract discount codes and additional information on family members traveling together, such as the ages of children.

PAX – Passenger

When booking trips, agents may encounter the abbreviation, PAX.  This is simply a short term for “passenger.”

PNR – Passenger Name Record

A record found within a Global Distribution System, or GDS, that contains personal client details associated with a particular booking is known as a passenger name of record, or PNR.

SAS – Seminar at Sea

A Seminar at Sea (SAS) is a trip travel agents can take to become familiar with different cruise ships. Usually short cruises, these trips offer educational sessions that teach agents about the cruise line. These trips are excellent opportunities to tour new ships as well as travel to exclusive destinations.

Remember, you’re not the only one who isn’t 100% familiar with the travel industry abbreviations!

Eventually, these abbreviations will become second nature to you, and it might be tempting to use them often to save time and showcase your expertise! It’s important to remember that when speaking with clients who aren’t travel industry experts, they need to understand what you’re talking about. Always let them know what an abbreviation means if you do need to use one, and check in to see if they have any questions. While learning these shorthands can make your job as an agent easier, your number one job is always client service!

Happy learning and safe travels!

As a new professional in the travel industry, there’s no need to be intimidated by the terminology so many others have mastered.  Use memorization tips to make the process easier and use these terms as much as you can.  Practice makes perfect and with a little effort you, too, will soon feel like an expert in the travel industry.

Meet Pickles Travel Network: The Host Agency That Makes It Easy to Start and Scale Your Travel Business

Whether you’ve just started your travel agent journey, or you’ve been on it… Pickles Travel Network has the tools and resources to help grow your business. Unlike other host agencies, we believe in letting our members choose what works best for their business. Pickles Travel Network allows you to choose your commission rate, along with whether or not you want to charge planning fees. As a member, you’ll receive instant access to our list of suppliers, several marketing platforms and monthly coaching/trainings. 

IATA | CLIA Membership

PTN IATAN code: 45769253

PTN CLIA number: 00032299

When you enroll with suppliers, you must use PTN’s codes to receive a commission from us. Want to sign up for your own CLIA or IATA numbers for exclusive travel benefits? See below.

Get your own IATA/IATAN ID Card:

IATA IATAN Logo

The IATA/IATAN ID Card is the industry-standard credential to identify bona fide travel professionals. Key benefits include access to concessionary incentives from industry suppliers. Just added, the IATA MemberPerks program provides cardholders with daily savings at over 300,000 merchants across North America.

To be eligible, you must be registered with IATAN under PTN’s IATA number 45769253, working a minimum of 20 hours per week and earning a minimum of $5,000 per annum in commissions. You’ll need to send PTN a support ticket asking for approval. Once approved, we will send you a PRIN # to allow you to register with IATAN and ask for an ID card.

Get your own CLIA EMBARK ID:

CLIA Logo

Obtain a CLIA EMBARC ID for travel discounts and FAM (Familiarization) trips. Join CLIA as an Individual Agent Member, under Pickles Travel Network CLIA #00032299.

Once you’ve registered, submit a support ticket to let us know, and we will approve your registration.