CATO view

Peter Baily, general manager, Council of Australian Tour Operators

This being my final CATO column, after close to 25 years’ association with the Council, I thought it appropriate to give you a brief history of CATO.

In November 1964 a group of 15 wholesalers met at the Australia Hotel Sydney and formed a division of AFTA known as The Australian Council of Tour Operators (ACTO). The original concept was to look after the interests of tour operators & wholesalers and establish of a standard code of ethics.

In July 1969 the name was changed to the Australian Council of Tour Wholesalers (ACTW). During the following years, the Council became more involved in international airfares, holding regular meetings with the major carriers to obtain the best possible prices for their members and the introduction of the wholesale net fare.

In April 1999 AFTA made amendments to its constitution, including the dissolution of the separate divisions of AFTA, with the result that the ACTW was dissolved. The 48 members met and formed a new stand alone Association to be known as Council of Australian Tour Operators (CATO). The newly formed CATO retained close ties with the travel agent association.

Whilst adhering to the original code of ethics and ideals of the ACTW, in recent years CATO expanded its role in the Industry, developing dialogue with Government bodies such as the ATO, ACCC & DFAT. Recent areas of involvement include:

  • Exemption of GST on international travel — CATO worked closely with the ATO ensuring that International travel was exempt from GST; this involvement covered a period of years and was a major victory for the association and its members.
  • Guidelines for price advertising in the travel industry — In conjunction with the ACCC, guidelines were produced for price advertising covering both media advertising and the printed travel brochure.
  • Smartraveller consultative group — CATO, a founding member of this group, works closely and has regular meetings with DFAT to ensure the travelling public is kept up to date with travel advisories and general overseas travel conditions.
  • Review of consumer protection in the travel industry — CATO worked closely in conjunction with AFTA and a variety of government bodies in the review of travel agent licensing. On deregulation of the travel industry in July 2014, CATO fully supported the new travel accreditation scheme ATAS introduced by AFTA.

CATO holds regular quarterly meetings, providing excellent networking opportunities and initiatives for members. Current topical issues are discussed with guest speakers addressing members on matters of common interest.

Since its inception, membership has more than doubled from 48 and now stands at over 117 members.

As I begin my “sea change” on the NSW North Coast, the announcement of Brett Jardine as managing director opens an exciting new chapter in the history of CATO. With Dennis Bunnik as chairman ably assisted by the committee I feel confident that Brett will do a great job taking CATO and its members to the next stage.