BRETT Jardine, Managing Director, Council of Australian Tour Operators

The last 18-months have been extremely challenging for all of us. Whilst difficult, this time has allowed CATO to reflect on the needs of the land-supply sector which will ensure a sustainable future focused on supporting customers and our travel agent partners.

The land-supply sector is the lifeblood of the Australian domestic and outbound leisure market, with CATO members being the organisations that take the risk to invest in, develop and distribute quality product that enables Australians to travel safely around the world. With this in mind, our advocacy efforts in lobbying government continue, and will remain as a priority to ensure our members are here for the long-haul.

With green shoots of excitement now emerging around leisure travel, we are hearing reports of a new breed of customer, that has typically made their own leisure travel arrangements, now seeking the guidance and support of experts that are based here in Australia. CATO members, with the support of travel agents are well placed to provide consumers with first-hand knowledge and guidance from destinations around the world and encourage a “keep-it-local” approach by supporting Australian businesses as we re-build our industry.

As consumer confidence returns, there has been (and will continue to be) a renewed focus on booking terms and conditions as travellers seek a greater level of comfort before handing over their savings for future travel arrangements. At the onset of COVID there was a heavy focus on T&Cs from government (ACCC) and it was clear a greater level of consistency was required from organisations within our membership group.

With this in mind, CATO completed the roll-out of our Industry Standard Booking Terms and Conditions (T&C’s) last year, that the majority of members have now adopted. We recently finalised an update to these T&Cs based on further learnings and expectations aligned with Australian Consumer Law. Coupled with expertise from our legal partner and travel law specialist, this has ensured CATO members now have a greater knowledge and understanding of their legal responsibilities.