AFTA view April edition
Jayson Westbury, chief executive AFTA
The failure and liquidation of Si Holidays (and associated brands under Freestyle Travel Pty Ltd) has come at a time when travel agents across the country have not perhaps fully prepared themselves for this event.
By this I mean, many AFTA members who have been impacted by this liquidation have not yet signed up for the protection offered by the AFTA Chargeback Scheme (ACS). This has meant that once again travel agents have been caught in the middle of a chargeback by the client with no way of recouping the money.
Fortunately, some agencies have signed up for the scheme and are smiling all the way to the end of this mess as ACS will be paying out claims from this liquidation.
For those agents that have clients who paid by something other than a credit card, AFTA is urging them to have the customer file a complaint with the authorities against the principal of Si Holidays in the hope that they pursue further investigations.
The simple fact is that when a customer buys a holiday from a travel agent — who in good faith passes those funds onto the supplier of the holiday — and the company does something with the funds other than providing the holiday, you have to question if this is misappropriation of funds.
Time will tell as to the verdict in the case of Si Holidays and what ultimately happens to the principal. It is just not good enough that travel businesses and their owners think it is acceptable to use clients’ money for something other than the purpose for which it was given.
For the record Si Holidays was not ATAS accredited and while that does not help the outcome, it does indicate that the company was unable to make the cut and meet the criteria to obtain ATAS accreditation.
Not to shy away from the fact that we have had one ATAS accredited travel agent go into liquidation in the past 12 months, the same circumstances may prevail over the outcome of that principal also.
As an industry there is no question that we have had far fewer collapses and liquidation events in the past three years since deregulation than we had in the three years leading into deregulation. What does that mean? Well for my money it says that travel business owners have to think long and hard before they move into this situation and need to find ways to manage themselves out of trouble better as there is no longer a slush fund to bail them out.
If you own a travel agency and have not yet signed up for the new chargeback scheme, I would highly recommend taking another look and you can do this at: www.afta.com.au/acs.
I wish all those caught up in the Si Holidays mess all the best as the situation unfolds.