WATA, the World Association of Travel Agencies, is a non-profit organisation, created by independent travel agents for the benefit of all travel agencies around the world. It helps locally respected agencies combine their personal touch with the influence gained by global recognition. Since its foundation in 1949, WATA has become a truly well-respected name in the travel industry worldwide. With over 200 members from 175 cities in 82 countries, WATA today has established an international network of travel agents who enjoy some unique privileges and benefits.

Amongst the unsurpassed advantages for WATA members are:

  • be part of a network of travel agencies which has more than 40 years of history;
  • belong to a network offering quality of service, exclusivity, exposure and prestige;
  • the ability to supply your valued clients with local knowledge and service virtually anywhere worldwide;
  • exposure on the Internet;
  • preferred service rates from WATA members;
  • acceptance of WATA hotel vouchers with the International Hotel Association (IHA) and many international hotel chains;
  • the safeguarding of your economic interests through the WATA international guarantee and IHA/WATA guarantee;
  • the WATA Master-Key and the ability to publish your tariff which is then distributed to thousands of travel agencies worldwide and published on the Internet;
  • travel symposiums for your staff;
  • educational seminars at our assemblies;
  • WATA News;
  • business relationships and friendships that will last a lifetime.

What is the WATA philosophy?

WATA's basic idea is to bring local (preferably privately owned) travel agencies into an international network, so that every member is offered all the facilities and advantages of being associated with an international body - in addition to enjoying local prominence. As a consequence, a substantial volume of business to the agency's turnover can be expected.

What makes WATA successful?

WATA's statutes guarantee that every individual member of WATA is in a position to compete successfully with even the largest corporation. The adherence to these statutes, on the one hand, and the resolve by members to respect the duties laid out by the WATA code of conduct, on the other hand, have earned for WATA the reputation for total reliability and dedicated service.

How is WATA organised?

WATA is registered as an association under Swiss Civil Law, and is essentially a non-profit making organisation. Under its statutes, WATA and its members are required to assist one another, as outlined in the duties of a WATA member, mentioned elsewhere.

WATA headquarters

WATA maintains a permanent secretariat as its headquarters in Geneva to cover the Association's administrative needs. WATA headquarters also provides information, assistance and a number of services to individual members. These include the offices of an ombudsman between members and other sections of the travel trade plus assistance in the recovery of outstanding payments anywhere in the world.

WATA meetings

1. The General Assembly: for unparalleled opportunities

Held every year, the WATA General Assembly provides a forum for discussion of the Association's business and an unparalleled opportunity to 'talk travel' with fellow members from the four corners of the globe. Experience has shown that attendance at the General Assembly enables members to derive maximum benefit from their membership in terms of exposure to new business and new ideas applied successfully elsewhere. Furthermore, all elections take place during this assembly.

A programme of seminars focusing on points of immediate importance for the travel agencies enables the participants to be kept informed of the latest developments in our industry and to exchange their views with colleagues from the entire world.

2. The Regional Assemblies

Held on the first day of each General Assembly, these meetings provide a chance to discuss regional travel problems, as well as the implementation on the regional level of the decisions taken by the WATA governing bodies. The regions also have the possibility to submit immediately ideas and suggestions to the General Assembly.

3. Senior Employees Assembly

This assembly aims to familiarise employees who are actually involved in the day-to-day running of WATA agencies with the advantages and possibilities WATA offers.

What are the advantages of a WATA membership?

1. Guaranteed payment of IHA invoices

WATA headquarters guarantees payment of all invoices for services rendered by the International Hotel Association (IHA) hotel members to WATA members, up to a certain amount. In return, the IHA has requested its members to accept vouchers for individual clients issued by WATA members to be billed after the client's departure.

2. Internal guarantee

Subject to certain conditions, unsettled services rendered by one WATA member agency to another will be paid by WATA headquarters.

3. WATA standard exchange voucher

Your own exchange voucher bearing the WATA logo and the reference to the IHA/WATA agreement or the standard WATA exchange voucher printed by the headquarters with the name of your agency, are widely accepted by hotels worldwide. In the majority of the cases, hotels accepting these vouchers will agree to bill the services after the departure of the clients without pre-payment or deposit.

4. Membership list and introduction card

A small booklet listing all WATA members and their addresses is available for agencies to give to clients who go on extended trips, in case they need assistance and services en route. For especially important clients, a special introduction card is available.

5. WATA Master-Key : for complete travel information

Updated and published yearly, the Master-Key is undoubtedly the most selectively comprehensive source of travel information. Individual WATA agency tariffs represent an invaluable selling tool for members' incoming and outgoing services.

The thousands of non-WATA members agencies who receive it refer to it daily, thus representing a source of business not otherwise available to the local agency. The Master-Key carries the tariffs of WATA members offering incoming services. A standard presentation makes it easy for users to extract the information they need. Along with the tariffs is a unique country description sheet provided by the respective National Tourist Offices containing a wealth of background information.

6. WATA Circular Letters: for the latest developments

This internal newsletter keeps members abreast of new developments in WATA. It also gives members an opportunity to describe special activities of their own.

7. WATA's overriding commission

A supplementary commission of five per cent is allowed between members, on prices published in the WATA Master-Key for transfers, sightseeing, excursions, tours and chauffeur-driven car hire.

Membership of WATA not only gives a travel agent increased prestige locally, but gives him effectively the scope of the largest travel agency consortium in the world. Agents can call on the know-how and organising ability of nearly 1,300 branch offices with a total staff of more than 11,500 travel professionals worldwide. This extra dimension helps to convince existing and potential clients that every member is a source of travel advice and service on which they can count with confidence.

8. The WATA Gazette

The WATA Gazette is an educational newsletter addressed at the travel trade in general. It features information on travel and tourism, as well as on forthcoming WATA events. Its main goal, however, is to focus on new products of WATA members from all over the world and to present them on to the 'marketplace'. Limited space is reserved for trade-related advertisements.

WATA membership categories

1. Full members

Membership in WATA is open to any travel agency, preferably privately owned, which can prove a sound financial structure, adheres to the highest professional ethics expected in the industry and enjoys a prominent standing in the local community.

All WATA members have the same rights, privileges and obligations within the association. Individual members are grouped into three sub-categories depending on the scope of their activities, as follows:

  • agencies offering both outgoing and incoming services;
  • agencies offering outgoing activities only;
  • agencies offering incoming service only.
To preserve a further degree of exclusivity, full membership opportunities are limited according to the size of the community in which agencies operate. In cities with less than 1,000,000 inhabitants, only one member will be accepted for membership if he offers both outgoing and incoming services. If no such candidate exists, WATA may accept one member offering outgoing services and one member offering incoming services. In metropolitan areas with more than 1,000,000 inhabitants one additional member may be accepted for each additional million inhabitants or fraction thereof.

2. Associate members

A travel agency may apply to become an associate member. This category offers the possibility to become a WATA associate member for a trial period of two years. The associate members have the same rights and obligations as the full members, but the fees are greatly reduced. Three months before the expiration of the two-year period at the latest, both parties have to decide if the membership will continue or not. If it does continue as a full member the agent will have to pay the amounts not paid when s/he joined and the full yearly subscription fee for the following years.

3. Allied members

A category open to hotels, airlines, shipping lines and car hire companies. The aim of this category is to develop the business relations between the members and their partners. Allied members may attend the WATA General Assembly; they will be listed in the WATA publications, receive all WATA publications and circular letters and have the right to display on all their printed matter the WATA logo created for this category. They have no voting rights, nor can they be elected to the WATA governing bodies.

What are the duties of a WATA member?

  • members must adhere strictly to the WATA ethics and code of conduct;
  • members must favour the WATA organisation;
  • the collaboration between member agencies must be genuine;
  • members must attend the general and regional assemblies.

How to join

Please contact the WATA headquarters in Geneva. They will then provide you with the necessary application forms. Once these have been completed and returned they will then undergo the examination procedure applied to all candidates - including a vote taken by all existing members - prior to acceptance. The entire procedure lasts approximately four months.