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TQAL linked with ATAS as divisions on TCF continue

July 4, 2014 Corporate, Headline News 2 Comments Email Email

egtmedia59With Australia’s Federal Government unable to find a private sector operator, TQUAL, the national tourism accreditation scheme, has ceased operating.

A statement by AFTA said the decision by the Commonwealth Government stressed the importance of the industry “taking ownership for accreditation and service delivery by the sector. With travellers now providing feedback instantly, the travel industries other accreditation programs will take centre stage”.

AFTA said the national TQUAL scheme “complicated a crowded space and this decision to scrap the scheme will allow the many industry schemes across the travel and tourism sectors to prevail. Quality schemes and accreditation is best operated by industry, for industry and that is why ATAS has been brought to the travel industry in Australia.

“ATAS is an industry accreditation scheme that sets the benchmark of quality for the travel industry. AFTA is committed, through ATAS, to elevating travel industry standards in Australia by driving increased and continued participation by travel intermediaries in ATAS and raising consumer awareness of the benefits of booking travel through an ATAS accredited agent.”

AFTA chief executive Jayson Westbury said: “1 July saw the launch of ATAS which followed the removal of AUD 25 million of red tape by State and Territory Governments. ATAS establishes industry standards for the travel sector and provides travellers a brand to seek for quality service. To date over 1400 agencies have been accredited in a matter of weeks since the scheme opened for applications.”

ATAS, and the effective demise of the Travel Compensation Fund, continue to divide the industry.

Interestingly, opinions in the legal fraternity on the matter are just as divided.

Steven Lewis, a travel law specialist who recently ran a successful, world-first class action on behalf of travel agents against international airlines for the recovery of commission on fuel surcharges, said the abolition of national regulation of travel agents and the shutting down of the Travel Compensation Fund “pose a real risk to consumers who deal with travel agents”.

ACA Lawyers’ principal Lewis continued: “ATAS does not require agents to hold insolvency insurance or even run a client trust account. There will be no longer be any oversight of the travel industry.”

“On average 20 to 30 agents fail each year” he said. “From 1 July consumers will be taking a gamble with their money. If a travel agent does not have adequate protection then consumers who lose money will have nowhere to turn.”

He pointed out that in 2013, the TCF paid compensation to consumers of AUD 2.39 million as a result of agent failures, and said that national licensing of travel agents was introduced in the mid 1980s following a number of travel agency collapses with losses of over one million dollars.

“Before handing over their hard-earned money consumers should ask their travel agent what protections they now have in place,” Lewis said.

Respected specialist travel lawyer Anthony Cordato, however, took a different tack in a recent letter to Global Travel Media.

“The Government run indemnity insurance that the TCF has provided until today [1 July 2014] has been inefficient and an expensive burden on the Travel Industry in Australia,” Cordato said.

“Inefficient because it covers travel agents but not suppliers, particularly airlines, overseas tour operators and resorts.

“Expensive, because even small travel agencies with impeccable track histories have been forced to lodge bonds of AUD 40,000 and pay for expensive audits.

“Private travel insurers are now stepping in to fill the gap, AFTA is formulating an attractive policy cover, and the franchise chains such as Helloworld are taking out indemnity cover.

“So the privatisation of indemnity insurance for thew travel industry as from tomorrow is a cause for celebration.”

Written by Peter Needham

Currently there are "2 comments" on this Article:

  1. Could I add to my comments?

    The TCF model was past its use by date.

    Consumer protection is in good hands in Australia with the Commonwealth Government ACCC and the State Government Offices of Fair Trading / Consumer Affairs well armed legally under the Australian Consumer Law which commenced on 1 January 2011. They are able to quickly and effectively crack down on ‘fly-by-night’ (so to speak) travel agents and tour operators long before they go broke. They are therefore in a much better position than the TCF which usually waited until the agent / operator collapsed.

    The travel industry is well placed to deal with the end of the TCF. The ATAS Accreditation scheme will be a plus for reputable travel agents. So will maintaining trust accounts for client money.

    Travel Agents which are ATAS Accredited or have insolvency insurance or have a trust account should advertise this fact to differentiate themselves.

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