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Rudd exits AFTA…is it time for come back Westbury, all is forgiven?

April 6, 2021 Association, Headline News No Comments Email Email

The Australian Federation of Travel Agents has announced the departure of its Chief Executive Officer, Darren Rudd, after less than a year in the role, unfortunately at a very difficult and challenging time for the travel agency community, with AFTA Chairman, Tom Manwaring of Express Travel Group, taking on the role of Executive Chair, saying, “Darren’s time in the CEO’s role covers one of the most challenging periods for the organisation, our members and the wider tourism sector ever”.

The circumstances behind Rudd’s’ departure have not been revealed, but sources say it is for personal reasons, but what those are is not known, with Manwaring also saying, “The AFTA Board wish to thank Darren for his contribution during this very difficult time but we understand and respect that this is the right decision for Darren”, adding, “We thank Darren for his contribution to AFTA and our members during his time as CEO and wish him all the best”.

Rudd has said that he is incredibly proud of what the organisation had achieved over the last year, given the significant financial constraints in place and the multiple, ongoing challenges of COVID, adding, “During my time as CEO AFTA successfully secured a total of $258 million in tailored support through the Federal Government’s COVID Consumer Travel Support Program and together with our members we made sure that the plight of travel agents and businesses and the need for support was understood at every level of government” adding, “It has been an honour to lead this organisation during this period and a privilege to work with AFTA’s members, the team and the Board”.

Others in the industry have expressed they are less happy with the success of AFTA in securing a satisfactory deal to help agents, especially SME agents with comments made that the Federal Government‘s Federal Government’s COVID Consumer Travel Support Program is very complicated and appears to favour the larger operators and no putting support in the pockets of agents to help them survive.

In addition, there has been strong criticism of AFTA and the Federal Government in terms of the recent end of JobKeeper, especially in terms of what many in the industry describe as the highly inequitable additional support provided to aviation workers, while no additional support was provided to travel agents.

Supporters of the previous CEO Jason Westbury who left the organisations after comments he made to A Current Affair host Tracy Grimshaw, have expressed that perhaps AFTA should consider Westbury’s return as CEO, even on an interim basis, to maintain or even increases momentum, to lead the organisation during this very troubled time, with Manwaring having describing Westbury’s work at the time of his resignation as, “His work history stands in good stead for the service he has provided the travel industry and AFTA’s members”.  Westbury is also well known in and recognised for his connections in Canberra and his previous success in his dealings with the Federal Government.

A report by John Alwyn-Jones

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