So far so good post TCF

Ian-McMahonBy Ian McMahon

Remember the Millennium Bug – the Y2K virus that supposedly threatened the world’s computers and the end of civilisation as we knew it when our clocks ticked over to midnight on January 1, 2000? What happened? Absolutely nothing.

An agent recently used the Millennium Bug as an analogy for the impact of deregulation on our wholesale and retail travel industry. After all the hype in the lead up to the abolition of agent licensing and the Travel Compensation Fund there has been no change to the way the public interacts with travel sellers. Nil. Nada. Zilch.

The agent who used the Millennium Bug analogy (Ann Rogers of Wings Away Travel) provided her consultants with detailed Q&A responses to likely queries from the public about the new regulatory environment. They have never had to use them. They have not been asked a single question.

All the agents I contacted have told a similar story. One summed it up this way: ‘Clients used not to ask us about the TCF and they don’t ask us about deregulation. We’re an established, reputable agency and our clients continue to deal with us as they always have.’

But agents are also aware this calm could be shattered if (and I should probably write when) there is a major collapse of an agent or supplier. If clients lose money, have their travel plans shattered or are stranded overseas, the media scrutiny on all agents will be intense.

It would be foolish, indeed, for agents not to have put in place prudent measures to protect their clients. So it is reassuring to note all the activity that is currently taking place.

Helloworld, of course, has undertaken to provide a guarantee against the financial failure of any of its franchisees while TravelManagers and Mobile Travel Agents (MTA) have taken out the fidelity insurance offered by Gow Gates.

More importantly, perhaps, much is going on to guard against supplier collapse. The Allianz travel insurance brands (Aussietravelcover and CHI) are offering clients the option to insure against the collapse of an extensive – albeit by no means exhaustive – list of approved suppliers.

MTA has unveiled a scheme offering its clients protection against the financial failure of suppliers and at the time of writing Magellan Travel Group was finalising a comprehensive protection scheme for its agencies’ clients.

Agents are acutely conscious of the need to scrutinise their suppliers and at least one group, I am aware, is reviewing suppliers. It will categorise them according to financial risk and impose conditions accordingly.

Reassuringly, all the agents I have spoken with have kept in place the client account systems they operated under the TCF regime.