AFTA view – July 2017

Jayson Westbury explains how AFTA is making sure the right message is being heard in the media amongst complex topics such as terrorism and overseas deaths.

Jayson Westbury, chief executive AFTA

Terrorism, deadly destinations, arrests, hospitalisations, doom and gloom appear to be the current mantra of our beloved consumer media at the moment with more requests for comment and interview over the past few weeks and this month than any other topic.

I guess bad news makes for good stories and as is often the case AFTA does what it can to make sure the stories being told are factual, balanced and sending the right message to consumers. Misguided fear can lead to re-thinking a holiday and that is not good for the industry, nor frankly warranted.

When DFAT released its report about deadly destinations it included some big numbers. Australians who died last year include; 212 deaths in Thailand, 124 deaths in Philippines. 97 in Indonesia and 94 in Vietnam. That started the commentary and then there has been the terrorism events in London and the government challenges with Qatar.

The issue that we face is that the horrifying statistic needs to be balanced with the number of people travelling. In so many cases, travellers to these named destinations are likely to be younger and first timers which presents all sorts of risks and risks being taken resulting in tragedy.

When we turn our minds to terrorism this is much more difficult to respond to and explain. In fact, you can’t explain it, which is why our message is that people should be aware, be alert, be careful of their environment at all times and ensure that someone back home knows where they are at any given time. It’s good reason to use a travel agent and this point has not been lost when talking with the various media outlets about minimising risk.

All of this can’t be talked about without reference to the government run Smartraveller program that continues to deliver travel advisories and provide the opportunity for Australian travellers to register their travel with the government website. Sadly, the take up rate for this is still relatively low compared with the almost 10 million outbound trips that are being taken by Australians each year.

However, the need for travel insurance is getting through to travellers with reports that now only 8% of outbound Aussie travellers don’t hold travel insurance. It is only some four years ago that this number was more like 28%.

These are complex issues and a melting pot of topics for the thirsty consumer media to talk about. Good thing we are in the conversation.

On a final positive note, news that from 1 July (that is this month) the green outbound departure card is abolished and is no longer required to be completed by people leaving the country is indeed good news. As the smart gates get smarter and the experience of departure gets faster, simpler and even more enjoyable, Australia will be leading on this process and it is worth congratulating Peter Dutton, Minister for Immigration and Border Protection along with his department for this excellent outcome.

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