ONE of the most striking elements of the proposed new constitution of the Australian Federation of Travel Agents (AFTA) is the almost complete absence of the words “travel agent”.
Released this week for comments and feedback from the whole industry – both members and non-members – the new document follows a long overdue post-pandemic review of AFTA’s governance processes, which undisputably reflected a now bygone era.
Gone from the new constitution are any references to gender, along with the former regime of membership levels and voting based on numbers of bricks-and-mortar “locations”. Modern technology such as electronic ballots can be used for any voting required, and documents may be circulated by email. There’s also a focus on the key objectives of the Association, including guiding principles which underpin everything AFTA does.
However apart from the new constitution’s title, which includes “Travel Agents” in reflection of AFTA’s formal name, the rest of the document repeatedly refers to “Travel Intermediaries” – basically anyone who provides a travel service. According to the wide-ranging definitions, “travel intermediary means an entity, domiciled or incorporated in Australia, who provides a travel service on behalf of a travel supplier including, but not limited to, a travel agent, travel management company, aggregator, distributor, online travel agent, inbound tour operator, wholesaler or a consolidator”.
The voting structure
Rather than the previous location-based arrangements, AFTA’s new constitution reflects membership levels based on one of eight categories – each relating to a particular band of TTV.
Firstly, only Full Members are entitled to vote at a General Meeting of the Association. The Constitution also defines other types of membership including Associate, Concessional, Corporate Partnership and Honorary Life Members. Conditions for Full Members include operating as a Travel Intermediary within Australia, or being determined to be a Travel Group by a resolution of the Board. Full Members must also be participants in the Australian Travel Accreditation Scheme (ATAS).
Associate Members under the Constitution are entities or individuals who carry on business or are employed in Australia, but are not required to be ATAS accredited. Corporate Partner Membership is for entities which are not wholly engaged as Travel Intermediaries but regularly engage in the travel industry in Australia, and the Board may admit to honorary Life Membership any individual who has “rendered distinguished, meritorious or exceptional service to the Association and the industry”.
Similar to arrangements under the current Constitution, Concessional Members pay a reduced fee on the basis that they are part of a Travel Group.
At any General Meeting, the number of votes to which Full Members are entitled depends on their “TTV band” based on sales within Australia. The proposed membership categories – and the associated numbers of votes – are summarised in the table below. Membership fees also vary depending on the category, with AFTA CEO Dean Long confirming that at this stage the costs for full membership (which also include the costs of ATAS Accreditation) remain the same as those published on the AFTA website.
AFTA's new membership categories
|wdt_ID||Category||TTV Band||Votes||Annual fee|
|1||1||Less than $1 million||2||$1,210|
|8||8||$1 billion plus||80||TBC|
For Category 8, the number of votes increases by 80 for each billion dollars of TTV the Full Member has – and these top-tier members also pay additional fees in accordance with each additional billion dollars in Australian TTV.
Since the major vote undertaken each year is the election of AFTA’s directors – up to 12 of them in total, six of whom are up for election annually for a two-year term as under the existing Constitution – the voting structure continues to entrench the power among those who have the largest TTV and thus pay the most for their Full Membership of AFTA.
AFTA’s nature and purpose
The new Constitution also clearly defines the Purpose of the association, including key objectives to
- champion Members and be a trusted, trqansparent and consistent association that represents Australia’s travel industry
- identify and establish initiatives that improve the performance of travel intermediaries
- be an effective representative for Members through meaningful advocacy to support, defend and influence decision makers for the benefit of the tourism and travel sector
- promote and defend the importance of industry-led regulation that enhances business and consumer outcomes through the increasing of domestic and international travel by Australians
- establish a nationally recognised accreditation scheme for Travel Intermediaries that demonstrates to consumers their professional standing within the travel industry
- drive the best practice of service delivery by requiring members to meet the requirements set out in the ATAS charter as well as the ATAS Code of Conduct, and provide for suitable consequences when these requirements are not met
- facilitate the resolution of disputes arising between Members and consumers in the travel industry
- ensure the professionalism of the Travel Intermediary industry into the future
- ensure best practice governance principles are followed by the Board, management and Members at all time
The consultation draft of the new Constitution has been accompanied by a flyer summarising the Guiding Principles (below).
Open to comment and feedback
AFTA CEO Dean Long has made pains to stress that while the new draft Constitution is the outcome of extensive consultation, more feedback is welcome – so much so that he’s initiated an industry survey seeking comments (CLICK HERE).
“The consultation is the latest step in the ongoing and extensive review of all things AFTA to better reflect the membership base of corporate agents, tour operators, wholesalers and consolidators as well as retail travel agents,” he told travelBulletin. The AFTA Board has voted unanimouslly for the release of this version of the Constiutution, which is being circulated to members and the wider industry “as part of our commitment to transparency and inclusiveness,” he said.
“The Board is united in its support and focus on getting this right so that as travel’s peak industry body, we represent and are seent o truly represent our membership base and that we continue to evolve to be ‘fit for purpose’ in the massivly transformed landscape we now operate in,” he said.
Once finalised it’s expected the new Constitution will be adopted at the next AFTA Annual General Meeting later in the year.
* Credit to Richard Taylor from AFTA/Travel Community Hub for his brilliant MAGA (Make AFTA Great Again) cap – contact him if you want one for yourself!