ATAS seeks marketing funds boost; Mayo attacks

Issues & Trends – May 2014

ATAS seeks marketing funds boost; Mayo attacks

AFTA chief executive Jayson Westbury has not given up hope of persuading state governments to provide some of the money accumulated by the Travel Compensation Fund to boost funds for the promotion of ATAS (AFTA Travel Accreditation Scheme).

When the federal and state govern-ments assigned AFTA the task of devising an industry self regulatory scheme, Westbury asked for $6 million of the $27 million in the TCF coffers.

Roughly a third of this was to pay for setting up ATAS. The remainder was to help in the marketing of the scheme.

He got the first part of his wish but was seemingly rebuffed on the issue of marketing funds.

Not so, says Westbury, who revealed to travelBulletin that he will soon be making approaches to the state governments to provide those marketing funds.

He said the state governments, reasonably enough, would want to see how effectively AFTA has spent the money provided to establish ATAS before handing over more cash.

It was also appropriate for AFTA to wait until legislation repealing agent licensing laws had passed state parliaments, he said.

While maintaining that ATAS can self-fund an effective digital and social media campaign, Westbury conceded that he would welcome substantial additional money for a strong television campaign.

Meanwhile, lack of information about “actual media spend to launch ATAS” was one of a series of criticisms unleashed by the accreditation scheme’s arch critic Barry Mayo in the wake of the final round of ATAS workshops.

The TravelManagers chairman accused ATAS of “a total disregard for the consumer and the integrity of the travel agent industry”.

He claimed “a number” of agents have concerns about the confidentiality of information supplied to what he alleged is “an organisation that may not always be independent of board members’ commercial interests”.

He said there has been no discussion about ATAS having a non-industry independent chair or the appointment of industry Ombudsman. (ATAS has collaborated in the formation of an independent disputes resolution body.)

He accused ATAS of ignoring “what is likely to happen when the media is presented with the first group of consumers and subsequent groups that have lost their money and have not been able to travel”. (ATAS has said it has contingency crisis management and brand protection measures in place.)

And he portrayed his company as an advocate for other agents, claiming: “TravelManagers is contacted daily by independently owned travel agents, many members of major buying groups and franchises, expressing support of our view that the Travel Agent Intermediary Failure Insurance (TAIFI) should be mandatory….

“We are being urged by the travel agent community , including those who have already received ATAS accredi-tation even with the cost of TAIFI unknown, for TravelManagers to continue questioning ATAS to ensure it delivers a real value proposition to both the travel agent and consumer.”


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