I thought the dismissive way AFTA treated the Council of Australian Tour Operator’s recent discussion paper was unbecoming of the agency body. It came across as condescending and contained an air of superiority that really rankled.
CATO drew up a paper following consultation with members. It made which several, very reasonable suggestions, as to the future structure of ATAS and consumer protection. Goodness knows the industry needs to come together and talk about these issues.
Yet AFTA’s response was, in effect, to tell CATO and its Chairman Dennis Bunnik to shut up and let the big boys handle things. Bunnik, who has done much to elevate the voice of CATO and its members, deserved better than this brush off.
AFTA’s irritation was partly a result of the discussion paper being sent to the trade media who it clearly feels have no part to play in any debate. That is patently wrong. Among the roles of a trade publication is, or least should be, to facilitate debate and provide a vehicle for discussion. That, I imagine, is precisely why Bunnik sent it to Travel Daily, and others, in the first place.
Unlike the rabid consumer news media in recent times, Australia’s trade press has been nothing but supportive of the industry. Anyone doubting that should look at the initiatives of the past six months.
But more than that, it was the tacit suggestion that only AFTA should be discussing such issues at a higher level that left a sour taste. Everyone in the industry has the right to comment, debate, and make suggestions. And to do it publicly. AFTA doesn’t have a monopoly on that.
I have no doubt that AFTA has lobbied hard for the industry, as it should have done during these perilous times. And it continues to do so. But to suppress conversation, to suggest another trade body — one which represents a large and critical part of the supply chain — that it should pipe down, is just plain wrong.