TravelManagers has delivered some telling insights into the development of the AFTA-administered travel accreditation scheme ATAS, shedding light on what the group sees as the accreditation scheme’s shortcomings.
TravelManagers chairman, Barry Mayo, said TravelManagers, in discussion with state, territory and federal ministers or senior departmental officials responsible for Consumer Affairs, Small Business and Tourism, had initially sought the retention of the Travel Compensation Fund (TCF), but had eventually accepted that ATAS must have both a robust financial criteria and deliver consumer protection.
“This activity involved meeting with a number of ministers and/or their department heads to be mostly advised that the disbandment of the TCF and its replacement by ATAS is what AFTA had advised them the industry wanted. At no time was there comment about what the consumer might want.
“These meetings included a meeting with Mike Baird, the Premier of NSW, who was genuinely sympathetic to loss of consumer protection but, to be fair, this was after the Travel Industry Transition Plan had been adopted and legislated for the removal of travel agent licensing with its related consumer compensation.
“TravelManagers elected to become ATAS accredited because AFTA made ATAS accreditation a requirement for AFTA members to retain their AFTA membership. It is TravelManagers’ belief that an association representing a large part of the travel agency community is important for the industry and that if there is to be change then change would be better served by persuasion from within AFTA rather than external pressure.
“Under the TCF there was blanket consumer protection. With ATAS there is no protection required and where it is available through individual companies it is very opaque.”
Mayo said TravelManagers hoped that Baird and his fellow State Premiers would move quickly to reinstate the TCF with its financial oversight of the industry and provision of consumer protection.
“We need to have a strong AFTA that is representative of all its members and with a vision that compliments the needs and desires of travel consumers,” Mayo commented.
Warming to the theme, he said that in the lead up to its disbandment, the TCF had about 4800 members.
“Just this last week a spokesperson for ATAS claimed it is steamrolling its way to 3500 accredited agents, which is about 70% of the former TCF membership and makes no allowance for the many new travel agents that appear to have opened their doors, some without adequate qualifications or capital since, June 2014,” Mayo said.
“Also this week an ATAS spokesman was quoted as saying CTS Travel was the first agent affected in ‘almost 11 months of trading in the deregulated environment’. This is blatantly incorrect as identified in various media reports and from an AFTA member’s perspective unacceptable!
“The big questions to be answered are what is an acceptable accreditation system and what must it encompass from industry, consumer and government perspectives? And most importantly where to from here?”
Written by Peter Needham