AFTA view

JAYSON Westbury, chief executive AFTA

As the ATAS scheme turns four there is no question that it has really now found its feet in the travel industry landscape. It is pleasing to see the continued support for the scheme as more and more agents looks to join and maintain their accreditation.

The month of June will see a very large number of ATAS accreditation renewals fall due and AFTA has been working behind the scenes to make the process efficient and simple. We have also included the ability to join the chargeback scheme (ACS) as a part of the process.

An agreement to undertake a review of the scheme at the four-year mark was made when the original negotiation was put in place with all the state governments. This was a way to ensure that the scheme was continuing to deliver a standard for agencies in Australia, and underpin consumer confidence to continue using travel agents.

The results speak for themselves and from the responses AFTA has received and submissions made to the review, it is clear that all stakeholders are pleased with how the scheme is tracking.

There have been some suggestions for changes and once the reviewers’ report is released, the AFTA Board will need to consider any recommendations that enhance the scheme.

In parallel with this review, AFTA has conducted some significant consumer research. The results are pleasing with 1 in 5 consumers being aware of the ATAS brand and 82% of consumers saying that once they understood what ATAS was about, it would influence their decision to seek out an ATAS travel agent next time they look to book a trip.

This research has also provided AFTA with a consumer’s perspective and as such there will be two significant strategies put into place to support ATAS travel agents.

The first will be an industry-wide broad-based education campaign to help ATAS agents realise the full potential of the value of being accredited and look to increase awareness with travel consultants including front line sellers, who need to be talking about the scheme with clients more often.

The second will be a new television commercial being created and a new tag-line. The tag-line came directly from the consumer research and the groups used to deliver messages that matter in the minds of the consumer. While I am not going to let the cat out of the bag over what the campaign will say, keep a keen eye out for the new TVC, which we will be running on a national basis.

It is exciting times in the travel industry with Australia now ranked as the eighth largest (by physical traveller numbers, not per capita) outbound market in the world. We are fortunate that Aussies like to travel overseas and with so many looking for a good deal, ATAS agents should be well placed to grab a big portion of this market going forward.