AFTA View: The strength of ATAS

JaysonWestburyby Jason Westbury, chief executive AFTA

Firstly, congratulations to Kris Madden for taking on the new role at travelBulletin. I am sure Kris will continue the good work and in depth stories that travelBulletin is so known for.

As we come to the end of the third quarter for 2015 and what feels like another sprint to the end of the year, I am pleased with the outstanding support that ATAS continues to receive as members renew and provide their feedback. It is also very pleasing to see how the industry has made its own mind up about the best way to address consumer compensation as opposed to consumer protection. More on that in a moment.

ATAS is designed to be the mark that travel agents can be proud of and consumers can look to as a sign of quality and integrity and consumer protection. ATAS is about being an industry-led accreditation scheme for travel businesses of all sizes to use as a sign of third party endorsement for their business. The fundamental promise that ATAS participants make is to conform to the national consumer protection laws via the Australian Consumer Law (ACL). For consumers it also means that they can identify in a de-regulated industry a point of difference between businesses that are and are not accredited by the industry scheme.

The strength of this endorsement will grow over the year ahead and with the continued support of the industry, so will the importance of ATAS to both travel agents and consumers. As for compensation or the protection of consumers monies there are a raft of options now available and in market across the industry. For small agents the simplest way to protect client funds is to open an interest bearing trust account. There is no cost to do this and in fact the account attracts interest, which means that agents can earn money on the funds held in trust and should something go wrong, the client’s funds are safe. Simple!

On top of this very simple approach a range of options have evolved and been developed by the insurance industry for travel agencies and consumers to chose from. No doubt there will be more options that find their way into the market as the new industry-led environment matures.

The new environment has also brought with it some innovation with long standing and experienced agency owners looking to capitalise on the simplified environment by opening new stores like the example of the Hunter Travel Group (an NTIA 2015 winner) moving into Costco, and the future growth of the mobile agency groups increasing their national penetration. All good signs of growth and prosperity for the travel agency community in Australia and signs that the industry remains robust and confident. The future looks very bright for travel agents across the country.

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