Cato View – June 2014

THE Council of Australian Tour Operator’s (CATO) recently held its annual general meeting and dinner in Sydney with Rod Eather from Beachcomber Tours being re-elected as chairman. Other committee members re-elected were vice chairman Trevor Fernandes (Wildlife Safari, Perth), Dennis Bunnik (Bunnik Tours, Adelaide), Anne-Marie Mitchell (GET Educational Tours, Melbourne) and Sarah Anderson (GTI Tourism, Sydney).

Joining the committee for the coming 12 months are Greg Carter (Chimu Adventures) and Ross Ioppolo (Ormina Tours) both based in Sydney.

Deregulation, the demise of travel agent licensing and the cessation of the TCF has brought about the need for changes to the CATO constitution.

During the AGM a motion was passed by way of a special resolution to change eligibility for full membership of CATO.

Until June 30 full members were required to be a licensed tour operator or travel agent in Australia or its Territories. From July 01 full CATO Members will be required to be a member of the AFTA Travel Accreditation Scheme (ATAS).

Affected members have been given until October 31 to apply for ATAS accreditation, with new members needing to apply for ATAS within a month of joining CATO.

Eather in his Chairman’s address highlighted a number of areas of change in the industry.

“Technology continues to advance and change the face of the industry with more local and international OTAs (Online Travel Agents) appearing in the Australian market,” he said. “Wholesalers are producing fewer brochures as e-brochures become more accepted and consortiums only allow their own wholesaler’s brochures to appear on their agencies’ shelves.

“CATO members should make themselves ready for these changes and in particular the demise of licensing and the deregulation of our industry.

“Following the numerous workshops AFTA has conducted around the country, introducing their new voluntary accreditation scheme, they should by now be aware of the introduction of ATAS and the insurance options available.

“We now face a time where the industry will determine its own future rather than have a number of different state governments and the federal government regulate the industry for us.

“For ATAS to be successful the industry needs to show solidarity. ATAS agents should work only with ATAS wholesalers, and ATAS wholesalers should deal only with ATAS travel agents”.

CATO has supported the need for this change and also strongly advocates an industry led accreditation scheme. It is therefore considered to be in the best interests of its members to be part of the new accreditation scheme set up by AFTA and the value proposition that membership to ATAS offers.

ATAS will elevate the standards of protection for the consumer by the very fact that as an accreditation scheme it will require members to fulfill a well-considered set of criteria and follow a code of conduct that will provide quality and professionalism.