AFTA’s new accreditation schemeSeptember 5th, 2014 | | opinion
The Byte caught up with Jayson Westbury, CEO of the Australian Federation of Travel Agents (AFTA) yesterday and asked him some questions about the Travel Compensation Fund (TCF) and the AFTA Travel Accreditation Scheme (ATAS).
Good morning Jayson and thank you for taking the time to meet The Byte today.
1. Why isn’t ATAS compulsory for all travel intermediaries in Australia?
The Australian Government Ministers for Consumer Affairs formed the decision to de-regulate the travel agency industry in Australia. This means that there is no legislation remaining to mandate travel agents to hold accreditation. As such the ATAS scheme is voluntary, however AFTA believes strongly that for professional travel agents into the future ATAS is an important third party endorsement.
2. What are the major differences between the old TCF and the new ATAS accreditation schemes?
ATAS and the TCF can not be compared in any way. ATAS is an industry-led professional endorsement scheme based on a range of industry specific criteria which gives consumers confidence that they are dealing with an appropriately qualified and professional company when booking travel. The TCF was a compensation scheme run by the State Governments under legislation that also required travel agents to hold a license, but it did not have any criteria other than a financial criteria. ATAS has additional criteria which elevates the standard for participation which ensures that consumers get an increased level of confidence when dealing with an ATAS accredited agent in a de-regulated industry.
3. Why will ATAS be more sustainable?
In a de-regulated industry environment an industry-led accreditation scheme is paramount to ensure that professional standards are maintained. In tern this provides consumers with confidence to deal with those travel agents that have taken out accreditation, something that they don’t need to do. The scheme has been designed by industry, government and consumer group which ensures that all stakeholders have been involved. It is a modern approach to the way travel is transacted in todays diverse distribution environment. It is flexible and able to be adapted if necessary. It will be funded by annual participation fees which will also allow for a significant marketing investment that will target Australian consumers and assist consumers in understanding why using an ATAS accredited agent is so important in a de-regulated environment. The previous national scheme did not advertise the benefits to consumers and as such only 3% of consumers were ever aware of the benefits (albeit limited) of the previous national scheme.
4. Is AFTA membership and ATAS accreditation relevant for backpacker intermediaries? If so, how?
Yes absolutely. AFTA and ATAS is relevant for all distributors or travel intermediaries that transact business, regardless of sector or segment focus. Backpacker intermediaries would need to meet the set of established criteria like any other participant. They would then benefit from our ongoing marketing activity and importantly receive a third party endorsement from the leading travel association in Australia. The backpacker market has the ability to embrace this new scheme, which has been designed to be very affordable for the travel agent and will allow those who choose to become a part of the scheme to market that fact, giving backpackers a greater „peace of mind” when buying travel from the travel agent.
5. What are the benefits of ATAS accreditation for travel intermediaries including travel agents in the youth sector?
ATAS accreditation will elevate travel industry standards, allow travel intermediaries to test their business credentials against the best in the industry, receive that third-party endorsement which consumers will put faith in as their knowledge and awareness of ATAS grows over time. ATAS accredited intermediaries will benefit from an ongoing, annual, national marketing campaign that will ultimately drive business to those that are accredited. It will also allow travel intermediaries in this sector to differentiate themselves to the consumer as a professional organisation which meets the criteria and standards.
6. Travel agencies are closing their doors in our sector, with little protection for their consumers. What steps can be taken to stop this from happening? What are the benefits for consumers?
Intermediaries can access protection for themselves and their clients via a range of commercial solutions now available in the Australian market including travel insurance, insolvency insurance and trust account fidelity insurance protection. The benefits for consumers will be knowing that they are in safe hands, their money is protected and they are dealing with professional, reputable businesses.
For more information visit the AFTA www.afta.com.au
Interview by Chris Harrison
Have your say! Do you miss the TCF? Is ATAS a viable alternative? How is a member of AFTA and do you see/receive good value?