The reported collapse of a travel agent in Colac, southwest Victoria, with the loss of customer funds, seems likely to fuel the public disquiet sparked by a recent series of travel agency failures.
Channel 9 News in Sydney carried a report yesterday of the collapse of Ace Travel, a story that was also run prominently in the Melbourne Herald-Sun newspaper.
Reports say police are keen to speak to a 27-year-old travel agent, apparently owner-manager of Ace Travel.
Detective Senior Constable Chris Potter, from the Colac Police Crime Investigation Unit, told the Herald-Sun that police had received at least 20 complaints from would-be holidaymakers who claim they have been duped.
The paper quotes the policeman as follows: “There’s concerns by his clients about fraudulent activity and we are looking into that. I think a lot of people are upset and concerned. It has come as a shock to the community.”
Consumer apprehension about the safety of booking with agents seems unlikely to subside. The consumer group CHOICE fired it up on Wednesday with publication of a report headlined: “Protect your holiday savings when using a travel agent”. (See: No travel insurance covers agent collapse, says CHOICE).
“As it stands, there is no travel insurance policy that covers the collapse of a travel agent,” CHOICE stated, adding that “some travellers are out of pocket thousands of dollars following the collapse of three travel agents so far this year”.
The AFTA board has reportedly resolved to change the ATAS “fit and proper” criteria to include a more intensive check of related parties when evaluating applications for participation.
Whether that will suffice remains to be seen.
The ATAS move follows the widely publicised collapse of Melbourne-based CTS Travel Services, which was accredited by ATAS.
Written by Peter Needham