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TravelManagers renews call for straight talking on ATAS

April 14, 2014 Corporate, Headline News 1 Comment Email Email

egtmedia59TravelManagers has challenged AFTA to provide satisfactory information in response to concerns and questions about the Australian Travel Accreditation Scheme (ATAS). Flight Centre has confirmed its decision to sign up to the new scheme and Mobile Travel Agents has said it will do likewise. 

“TravelManagers believes robust discussion and debate is required to deliver real value to both the travel industry and the consumer,” TravelManagers’ chairman, Barry Mayo, said.

“We understand and support ATAS is the future, however we do not want to see a flawed ATAS weaken the consumer’s perception of travel agents and their confidence in organising their travel through a travel agent.

“We do not feel AFTA has provided satisfactory information in response to concerns and questions. AFTA tends to generalise and criticise with the absence of addressing specific concerns, so we have little option but to continue to raise these concerns in a public forum.”

Some current concerns about ATAS were laid out by Global Travel Media here: ATAS elephant in the room may end up falling on agents

Mayo said a recent article by AFTA in response had portrayed TravelManagers’ concerns regarding ATAS as baseless. CHR_TTR_Banner UK_March14(300x250px)

AFTA chief executive Jayson Westbury had written that the suggestion insolvency insurance should be mandatory for ATAS participants brought to mind the reference: “The Grim Reaper of Small Business”.

TravelManagers retorted that although all travel agents would suffer if bad publicity flowed from travel agents defaulting and not providing services and product that consumers had paid for, “it will be the small to medium size travel agents who have the most to lose”.

TravelManagers asks the question: Which endorsement will be most effective should consumer media coverage focus on a travel agent collapse and consumers losing their money and being unable to travel?  Is it “an ATAS accredited agent is a trusted professional travel agent, who delivers quality service to consumers” or is it “ATAS accreditation guarantees the viability of your travel agent?” Is there any reason why this could not be further enhanced by combining these two claims into one?

Despite claims by AFTA, Mayo said, there had been no evidence to date that  demonstrated ATAS was “future proof”.

“The question has to be asked, how can it be future proof when AFTA is on record as saying the scheme will change later if the absence of consumer protection from travel intermediary collapses resulting in bad publicity makes this necessary?

“TravelManagers strongly believe now is the time for robust discussion and debate to ensure an effective scheme is created initially whilst there is still time.”

Mayo reiterated TravelManagers’ view that the collapse of other travel agents resulting in consumer losses, which would tarnish the integrity of all travel agents and result in consumers losing confidence in travel agents, could spell the beginning of the end for small business in the travel sector.

TravelManagers wants to know why ATAS doesn’t insist that Travel Agent Insolvency Insurance be mandatory when participation is voluntary. “If an agent big or small does not want to provide the consumer with a guarantee of financial security, they would have the choice of not joining ATAS, which was not an option under the current licensing/TCF regime.

“It does not make sense to launch a scheme that is flawed and puts travel agents’ businesses unnecessarily at risk when it can be avoided and save potential suffering for both consumers and the industry,” Mayo said.

“TCF had its faults and TravelManagers has never disputed this. However it served the industry well in minimising travel agent collapses and protecting the consumer from loss of monies and not being able to travel.

“The licensing/TCF regime was not voluntary whereas ATAS is voluntary and licensing will no longer exist. Therefore if Travel Agent Insolvency Insurance is a requirement to obtain attain ATAS accreditation, agents who do not want to purchase Travel Agent Insolvency Insurance can choose not to join ATAS and still operate.

“This is not replacing what was already there and importantly differentiates between an ATAS accredited agent and a non-ATAS accredited agent, providing the consumer with greater clarity as to when their money is protected.”

TravelManagers hopes that by continuing to speak out, “AFTA will play the ball, not the man, and address the unanswered issues surrounding consumer protection and industry integrity to ensure an effective ATAS’ value proposition is launched on 1 July 2014,” Mayo said.

“With less than 12 weeks until ATAS becomes a reality, it is critical AFTA addresses these issues appropriately.”

Written by : Peter Needham

Currently there is "1 comment" on this Article:

  1. Martyn Paterson says:

    Surely looking at a position of a bad reputation if an agency fails we should be looking at the other end of this – the point where a customer is considering making a booking from information on the internet?

    As I understand it, part of the reasoning behind the closing of the TCF was the growth in online travel bookings.

    An important part of the TCF was bonding yet I understand unlike the British ABTA system the TCF did not bond customers from outside Australia.

    Given the proposed ATAS membership offers no bonding protection for consumers booking through an Australian travel business, how can we be seen to be ‘safe’ for customers from Australia or overseas booking online if the British ABTA/ATOL, many EU member countries & others offer a global bonding against agent insolvency?

    As I see it at the moment an Australia customer can book a holiday in France with an English travel agent & get the security of ATOL or ABTA bonding whereas with the ATAS proposals Australian travel agents can only offer to sell travel insurance to Australian residents, we can offer no bonding protection for non-Australian residents.

    Is that what is intended, to make our industry uncompetitive globally when internet travel business is on the rise?

    Martyn Paterson

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