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Seminar to train agents to mediate disputes

Seminar to train agents to mediate disputes
By Laura Del Rosso
Originally published on www.travelweekly.com

SAN FRANCISCO -- A long-time travel agent and an industry attorney are looking to mediation to fill what they believe is a need in the industry: a less-expensive alternative to litigation to resolve disputes.

Couples going through divorce, businesses and labor unions in stalled talks, and major industries often turn to mediators to settle disputes to save court costs and the time involved in taking cases through a clogged court system.

There is no reason why travel agents, tour operators and consumers who have issues with a travel company also cannot use a professionally trained mediator to settle their problems, said David Parkinson, who recently founded Travel Dispute Mediation.

Parkinson, who for many years ran the Travel Design Associates consortium, based in Santa Clara, Calif., and who continues as an agency owner, completed a mediation course this summer.

His new business offers his services as a mediator and those of other trained mediators to the travel industry.
In conjunction with the World Travel Dispute Center, which offers services of attorneys trained as mediators, Travel Dispute Mediation is holding what Parkinson calls the first training seminar for travel agents and others interested in becoming travel industry mediators.
The 25-hour seminar, which is scheduled for Jan. 16 to 18 at the Hotel Rouge in Washington, will be conducted by long-time travel attorney Laurence Gore and certified mediator Martin Zisholtz, both from the World Travel Dispute Center, based in Fort Lauderdale, Fla. The cost is $495.

Gore and Zisholtz also will conduct a mediation training course for attorneys and legal professionals from Jan. 12 to 14 at the Marriott Hotel in Washington. The cost is $595.

The location and dates were chosen to coincide with the National Travel Law Symposium Jan. 15 in Washington. The symposium is sponsored by Travel Weekly and ARTA.

Parkinson called mediation "something the travel industry needs."
"The courts are clogged, and you have to wait two years and spend a lot of money to sue someone," he said. "For what it costs to go to small-claims court, you can go to a mediator."

Parkinson said he plans to target travel agents and other travel companies with the services of his group, which lists a dozen or so mediators who have completed the class. They are located throughout the U.S.

"If a consumer wants to take a travel agency to court, the agent can suggest that they sit down and try to work something out with the use of a mediator."

San Francisco attorney Alexander Anolik, ARTA's legal counsel, said he has long advocated mediation.

Anolik was one of the founders of the International Forum for Travel and Tour-ism Advocates (IFFTA), which comprises travel attorneys from around the world.

The World Travel Dispute Center is an offshoot of IFFTA.
"There needs to be a method within the travel industry to bring knowledgeable travel industry people in to mediate," said Anolik.
"These are people who know travel industry terminology and how agents and tour operators work."

Anolik said mediation differs from arbitration in that no one sits in judgment and makes a ruling or decision.
In mediation, "two parties agree to talk. The mediator has the ability to convince both sides that he or she is fair. The ultimate goal is -- with the expenses of litigation so outrageous -- to cut expenses and the time involved for a court case," he said.

Anolik said a mediator, for example, can hammer out an agreement between two parties who cannot come to an agreement on a financial resolution to a dispute.

"One side may want $80,000 and the other side is willing to pay $40,000," he said.

"If it goes to court, the case may end up costing $70,000, so the mediator is able to reach an agreement.

"A good settlement is where both sides are to some degree unhappy with the outcome but happy they have saved the expense and time of a lawsuit."

The World Travel Dispute Center charges $150 an hour for the services of a travel attorney as a mediator; Parkinson's Travel Dispute Mediation charges $65 an hour for the services of a mediator who has completed the seminar.

The fees are typically split between the two parties involved in mediation.

Mediation proceedings are kept confidential and cannot be used as evidence in subsequent court proceedings.

Typically, participants in mediation agree to waive their rights to court action, except if the agreement is not followed by one of the parties, said Anolik.

The training course in January will cover mediation techniques and basic legal principles using travel law cases and standards for alternative methods of litigation.

As mediators, Parkinson said, travel agents can earn extra income using their professional skills while enhancing their professional prestige.
An added benefit for both the agent-turned-mediator and for the parties involved in the dispute is that hours for mediation sessions are flexible and can be scheduled for evenings and weekends, he said.
For additional information, contact Parkinson at (800) 927-7444 or (408) 727-9449 or visit the Web at www.travel-dispute-mediation.com.