AFTA View – May 2014

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Jason WestburyAgents, think about your future and
sign up for ATAS accreditation

By Jay Westbury, chief executive Australian Federation
of Travel Agents


LADIES and gentlemen of the travel industry, and most importantly travel agency owners of Australia: I have an announcement!

From July 1, 2014, travel agency operators will no longer be required to hold a licence issued by the state government in which their businesses are domiciled – nor to be a member of the Travel Compensation Fund.

I just thought I would make this statement up front as there have been reports that some agency owners do not know about this change.

Deregulation is often taken as a dirty word as there is a view formed that government licences act as a barrier to entry and as such increase the value of the business and maintain some degree of control over who enters the marketplace.

The stark reality is that this is not and has not been the truth when it relates to companies selling travel and competing with travel agents for years and years – in fact you could argue not since 1999 when the first websites started to compete directly with travel agents and were not subject to the same level of government controls.

Over the past 15 years the direct selling of travel products by suppliers has proliferated while global online travel agents (OTAs) have found their way into the minds of Australian consumers without being required to comply with government regulations and entry barriers.

So the number of traditional travel agencies in Australia is steadily declining – not because of any barrier to entry but because of this onslaught.

Thus the need to place Australian travel agents on a regulatory level playing field. It is without question the only long term solution.

During all those years of government regulation, when was the last time you saw a government-funded commercial promoting travel agents? Never is the correct answer.

The invention of the AFTA Travel Accreditation Scheme (ATAS) is first and foremost for the purpose of high-lighting and supporting professional, trustworthy, experienced travel agents.

ATAS is about leading an industry and supporting an industry in a way that goes well beyond just regulating it. ATAS is voluntary and this is what will set those who choose to join apart As the onslaught of supplier-direct sales and overseas OTAs heats up, the good thing, the only thing, the most professional thing is ATAS.

ATAS will elevate travel standards and focus at every opportunity on telling consumers why accredited travel agents are superior to other channels.

Australian travel agency owners must make a clear decision over the next few months.

They must ask themselves: Do I go it alone and compete on just my brand and reputation, or do I join my industry association and colleagues and support my own industry accreditation scheme that has been developed and built with the travel agent at the centre of everything it does?

Now is the time to engage.

Now is the time to think about your future and the future of your staff.

Now is the time to get ATAS accredited!

Jay Westbury’s AFTA View column appears monthly.