Travel agency insolvencies damage the reputation of the retail travel industry generally, quite apart from inconveniencing customers of the agencies concerned and causing them financial loss, TravelManagers’ chairman Barry Mayo said yesterday.
Speaking after the collapse of two ATAS-accredited travel agents in recent weeks (CTS Travel Services and Travel Rockhampton), Mayo suggested on Wednesday that funds left sitting in the Travel Compensation Fund should be put to good use in re-establishing the TCF. See: Clarion call for shake-up of ATAS and revival of TCF
As Travel Rockhampton was a helloworld associate member, consumers were protected by helloworld’s Customer Protection plan. No customers’ travel plans were disrupted and all travel plans proceeded as booked.
Clients of CTS Travel Services, on the other hand, were left out of pocket, some to the tune of many thousands of dollars.
As it stands, the TCF funds, derived from the travel industry and currently totalling about AUD 25 million, are destined to disappear into state consolidated revenue when the TCF is wound up. That may happen later this year.
With ATAS a late agenda item for discussion at an AFTA board meeting next week, Mayo today posed some new questions.
He started by pointing out that before 1 July 2014, the loss of consumer funds was not an issue, as all travel agents were licensed. Consumers were protected by the TCF consumer protection program, which was funded by the travel agent community.
“This is no longer the case and – as if the issue of any travel agency collapse is not enough – when an ATAS-accredited agent collapses, what impact does it have on other ATAS-accredited agents?” Mayo asked.
“When an ATAS accredited agent inconveniences or causes financial loss and worry for its customers, what does this mean for AFTA’s claims that:
- ATAS is the stamp of approval that symbolises the Australian travel industry’s highest level of customer service, training, ethics and professionalism. By using a travel agent that bears the ATAS symbol you can be sure that you are booking through the best in the industry
- ATAS protects you by acting as a clear indicator of quality and reliability. Agents with ATAS accreditation meet high quality standards of business practices, training and professionalism. This means you can book your travel knowing you’re in the safe hands of a trusted and reputable travel agent
- ATAS accredited businesses meet standards and criteria set by the industry association AFTA. The criteria includes assessment of finances, ensures minimum levels of training in product and destination knowledge, has a complaint resolution policy, and complies with the scheme’s Code of Conduct, and Australian Consumer Law.
- Travel with peace of mind and always book travel through an industry qualified ATAS accredited travel agent. Trusted, quality and professional industry accredited travel agents can be found at www.atas.com.au.
- ATAS travel agents have met strict standards and criteria in order to become nationally accredited. Their accreditation means they are the best in the industry, credible, well trained and professional businesses. This means you can book your travel knowing you’re in the safe hands of a trusted and reputable travel agent.”
“How should the consumer interpret these claims, which were circulated by AFTA to the industry as recently as 11 May 2015?” Mayo asked.
“What would customers of CTS Travel Services and Travel Rockhampton think of those claims, firstly in terms of their validity and secondly when choosing a new agent to replace the one that inconvenienced them?
“Equally important, what would these disrupted travellers say about the above claims to their families, friends and associates when discussing future booking arrangements?”
The answers may be forthcoming next week.
Written by Peter Needham