AFTA View – February 2014
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2014 set to be a very big and very ‘accredited’
year for travel agents
By Jay Westbury, chief executive Australian Federation
of Travel Agents
2014 is shaping up to be a very big year for the Australian travel industry and importantly travel agents.
In less than six months travel agents across Australia will no longer need to hold a travel agents licence.
This is not news as such, as the industry and indeed AFTA has been talking about the transition for more than 12 months now.
However it is clear to me that we still have some work to do to ensure that travel agents and in fact suppliers understand what will happen from July 1 and the importance of a successful, industry-wide and appropriate accredi-tation scheme for the industry going forward.
The AFTA Travel Accreditation Scheme (ATAS) is I believe just that – an industry-wide, national, appropriate and robust accreditation scheme for travel agency owners to adopt into the future.
When an industry moves from a heavily regulated and legislated environment to one in which it is deregulated, it is the industry’s responsibility to ensure that a professional footing is in place and that any scheme that is developed is “fit for purpose”.
The scheme also needs to be adapt-able to all the different shapes and sizes, channels and business models that make up the travel agency community.
Last year the ATAS team undertook an extensive range of consultation across all areas and facets of the travel industry to ensure that the scheme would deliver what I have outlined above.
The feedback about the scheme and the criteria has been robust and we have incorporated as much of the variables and considerations proposed along the way as we can.
We remain very confident that the final scheme to be presented in the next two months will deliver for all.
I am confident that the majority of the industry will embrace the ATAS scheme and that ATAS will serve the travel industry and as importantly the travel agency community very well for years to come.
Meanwhile, alongside ATAS, there will be insurance options providing cover for agency and supplier collapse – an option that could also protect agents against the bogey of credit card charge backs that proved such a problem in recent collapses under the TCF regime.
One of the compelling reasons to bring insurance offerings into the Australian market is to allow agency owners to consider their options to protect themselves and indeed their clients from collapses.
So my thoughts on this are that if many other countries around the world can have very successful travel agency communities built on a positive value proposition of service, trust, competition, experience, knowledge and ability, then why should Australian travel agents (who are as far as I am concerned, equal to, if not better than, the best in the world) not be able to maintain a successful and robust industry for years to come based upon this new ATAS promise?
What we are now doing in Australia with the imminent introduction of ATAS is providing the industry with a solution to ensure we maintain our internationally recognised professional industry for years and years to come.
So in 2014 I hope that we have a very big year and a very “accredited” year.
Jayson Westbury’s AFTA View column appears monthly.