Travel agents, AFTA and AFTA’s Travel Accreditation Scheme (ATAS) feature in two separate surveys currently hitting the news.
One is an industry survey conducted by AFTA; the other is a travel consumer survey conducted by the consumer advocacy group CHOICE.
CHOICE’s travel advocacy project surveyed travel consumers in June and July to identify key areas of consumer detriment, trends in consumer behaviour and the performance and awareness of consumer protections – including that of ATAS. The results throw much light on travel buying behaviour.
CHOICE plans to release the full survey later in the summer but some of the research is out now and AFTA chief executive Jayson Westbury cited a couple of points from it last week.
CHOICE’s research shows that almost half of Australian travellers (49%) used a travel agent to book at least some part of their travel plans over the past 12 months. This was fairly consistent for all generations, excluding the older ‘pre-Boomer’ generation, which was more likely to use a travel agent (at 58%).
According to the CHOICE survey, the main criteria for consumers in choosing an agent are:
- Experience and professionalism of the staff (96% said very/somewhat important);
- Well-known brand/trusted travel agent brand (92% said very/somewhat important);
- Previous experience with the travel agent (90% said very/somewhat important);
- Location of the travel agent’s office/s (75% said very/somewhat important);
- Travel agent’s website (72% said very/somewhat important);
- Accreditation with ATAS (71% said very/somewhat important);
- Referral by friends or family (71% said very/somewhat important);
- Type/range of travel insurance policies available (70% said very/somewhat important);
- I liked the look of their shop (50% said very/somewhat important).
“While ATAS accreditation is not the top reason why a consumer would choose one agent over another, it is a notable factor with 71% of people who have used an agent saying it’s very or somewhat important in their decision,” CHOICE stated.
“Awareness of ATAS amongst all the respondents of the survey was 19%, while AFTA had an awareness rating of 29%.”
The 19% awareness of ATAS means, conversely, that 81% of the sample was unaware of ATAS, but CHOICE notes: “Awareness of ATAS may appear low, but after only 12 months in operation, 19% is respectable.”
CHOICE concluded that awareness of ATAS is “relatively healthy at this time” and, secondly, “accreditation influences a consumer’s decision of agent, but not as much as other factors.”
Methodology is always important in surveys. The CHOICE survey was conducted amongst 1517 Australians, aged between 18-75 years. All participants had taken a domestic flight for a holiday in the past 12 months and were also required to have taken at least one international flight in the last two years. The fieldwork for the research took place from 22 June to 6 July 2015.
In order to ensure that the sample was representative of the Australian population, the data for this research was weighted by age, gender and state according to ABS Census Data, 2011. The fieldwork agency used for this phase is GMI Lightspeed Research.
Surveys can be either “prompted” or “unprompted”. Prompted means respondents to the survey are shown a number of brands or choices, and asked which they remember or prefer. In an “unprompted” survey, respondents have to rely on their memory and no aids are offered.
CHOICE’s survey was prompted.
The survey question showed respondents a list of bodies and schemes such as CHOICE, the ACCC, and the fair trading bodies. It then asked these questions:
- Shown below are a number of bodies and schemes designed to protect Australian travellers. Which of these were you aware of before today?
- Which organisations can you think of that provide information to help Australian consumers?
- Which organisations can you think of that represent your rights as a consumer?
The awareness score of ATAS and AFTA was a compilation of the results of answers to these questions.
The other survey was conducted among the travel industry by AFTA towards the end of August 2015.
Speaking at the Magellan Travel Group conference, AFTA chief executive Jayson Westbury was reported as saying that 87% of respondents to AFTA’s own survey said the reputation of their business had not been affected in the past 12 months, following the end of the Travel Compensation Fund, but 39% felt their business financial standing had declined since July 2014 as a result of the TCF ending.
The AFTA survey asked agents questions like: “AFTA offers a range of membership benefits. Please tell us how valuable are the following AFTA Membership benefits to your business?” (A list of benefits follows, with respondents invited to rate them as Not Important, Somewhat Important, Important, Very Important, Critical or N/A.)
“In July 2014 the Travel Compensation Fund (TCF) ceased to operate. Has the reputation and performance of your business been adversely affected?”
(Yes or No.)
Westbury said the AFTA survey received a 30% uptake from AFTA members.
Written by Peter Needham