JAYSON Westbury, chief executive AFTA
Last month was definitely not one of the best months in the Australian travel industry. I am of course referring to the collapse of Tempo Holidays and Bentours which by all accounts is one of the larger wholesaler collapses the Australian market has experienced, and certainly the largest travel company collapse the Australian market has experienced for some time.
Why? That really is the question that remains on everyone’s lips and I suspect it will be some time, if indeed at all that we will really truly find out the truth about what actually caused this great company Cox & Kings, the parent company to Tempo Holidays and Bentours to get into so much trouble financially.
At a local level Tempo Holidays and Bentours was a well-run business, was ATAS accredited and for years it had satisfied all the requirements, was run well, had good product and procedures and was well regarded. Then seemingly very quickly and suddenly and without a great deal of notice is all went pear shape.
Off the back of all this, and I guess not surprisingly, the industry has been awash with debate and dialogue about what we should and could do to better mitigate against the kinds of losses that so many consumers and travel agents have endured as a result of the collapse of this company.
Calls for this and statements about that and suggestions that things could have been different “if only…” have all been out there and are not without being heard.
I understand how frustrated travel agents in particular feel about being placed in the middle of this kind of mess. I have been involved now in many large scale collapses since arriving in my role at AFTA and without question every one of them has a different story and a different outcome.
For this short column what I can say is there is not an easy fix to this problem. In order to create a solution that everyone will be happy with, we need answers to questions such as who should pay, how much should they pay, should it be government, should it be industry, should it be mandatory, does everyone agree — this is not an easy task.
But what I can say is that without question the issue of supplier collapse remains well and truly on the To Do list for AFTA. In part the ACS scheme has solved this issue for some travel agents — this is undeniable.
I accept that for those consumers who paid in cash there is no solution, though I would say that there is no part of the Australian economy where cash is really protected.
No doubt many will continue to express their views, as everyone is entitled to do, but the key for me is to find a solution that can be implemented and delivered in an affordable way that meets the needs of the majority of the industry.
That is what AFTA will be exploring and I hope in 2020 we will find a solution that we can all live with — let’s give it a shot.