AFTA View – Nov/Dec 2013

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Jason WestburyTravel agents, stand by for AFTA to
bring the new ATAS brand to life

By Jay Westbury, chief executive Australian Federation
of Travel Agents


NO doubt 2013 will go down as one of the biggest years on record for the Australian travel industry. It was the year in which the collective of the state and territory Consumer Affairs Ministers, with the support of the Federal Government, approved the full implementation of the travel industry transition plan (TITP) which gives effect to deregulation.

The travel industry is now set to structure ourselves our way and in the best interest of both the consumer and the travel agency owner.

The development and launch of the AFTA Travel Accreditation Scheme (ATAS) is a significant achievement for the industry as ATAS will become a very important industry-led partner for travel agents for decades to come.

Over the past month or so the ATAS team has circumnavigated the country rolling out the transitional workshops and also attended several of the group conferences to ensure that all travel agents have open and transparent access to the design, plans and application process for ATAS which will open for business in early 2014.

As an important and paramount aspect of the new arrangements under the TITP, it was also the year that we launched the first of the commercial solutions available to agents in the form of airline/end supplier insurance protection. Something that we were never able to get off the ground under the previous national scheme for travel agent regulations, but which we have brought to Australia in record time.

This new policy offered via Gow-Gates and written by IPP primarily addresses the many problems confronting travel agencies when suppliers collapse and they are faced with credit card chargeback. This issue has been raised with me for years and I am really pleased that the talk has become reality. Applications will open in December with cover to be in place from as early as January 2014.

Meanwhile the agency insolvency solution is close to finalisation and will launch in the new year with the option for various groups and businesses to address this issue the way it best fits within their business model. This is one of the terrific outcomes that the industry now has.

The commercial option to approach this type of cover how they see best fits their business is something that government based regulation would always have difficulty addressing and one of the main reasons AFTA agreed with the government for the new arrangements to be voluntary.

Smart, successful, future-thinking, intelligent agents will embrace ATAS and the various commercial solutions that are becoming available.

As I have said in the past, this is a once in a generation reform and it has taken a very long time to make this happen. Now that we have achieved this outcome in 2013 I hope that the entire travel agency community in Australia will embrace this change and work together to make our new scheme and arrangements truly appropriate for the betterment of the industry and of course the consumer.

Thank you to everyone that has contributed to the successes that the industry has achieved in 2013. I look forward to an equally awesome year in 2014 as the rubber hits the road and ATAS comes to life. ATAS is about elevating travel standards and I am confident we will deliver on this.

Jay Westbury’s AFTA View column appears monthly.