What a difference a year makes

We’re celebrating one year since the Travel Consultant job title was recognised as an urgent skill deserving of government funding, but there’s still a long way to go, MATT LENNON reports.

It seems like only yesterday when ATIA was waxing gleefully about its success in having the ‘Travel Consultant’ job title added to the Federal Government’s Skills Priority List. But indeed, a whole year has passed, and to borrow a sporting analogy, the association has well and truly picked up the ball and is now running with it. 

As an aside, ATIA itself didn’t even exist a year ago, as it was then still known as AFTA, but while the letters on the door and the logo changed, its mission was only emboldened. 

While the role of Travel Consultant has always been and will likely always be underestimated, undervalued and misunderstood, the addition was recognition by Canberra’s lawmakers that this is not a job that anybody with a map and a weekend’s crash course in reservations can rock up and do. And that was the misguided perception ATIA worked for a decade to change. 

Indeed, it was a catalyst that upshifted the travel industry’s recovery into a higher gear and shone a spotlight firmly at a profession that only those with a true passion for hard work, an ingrained personal drive and natural disposition to serve should do and will succeed at. 

The recognition of Travel Consultants as a highly valued skill is a step in the right direction.

Since then, ATIA – post-rebrand – has embarked on numerous missions to Canberra, not to mention state and territory capitals, to ensure qualifications such as Certificate III in Travel and Tourism or the Advanced Diploma of Tourism and Travel Management are adequately funded to ensure only the best people were getting through to join the best already doing it. 

There has been further success since then, with ATIA setting up an internal taskforce featuring a spectrum of ATAS members which identified shortcomings in terms of recruitment and training and targeted government programs in place to help address these. 

“When an occupation is identified as being in shortage, that means the government can focus its policies on helping people get into those occupations,” ATIA’s Director of Advocacy and Public Policy, Ingrid Fraser, told travelBulletin. 

“There have been other discussions that we’ve had with other state governments on how they bring funding online for those programs to really escalate the number of people doing Cert III’s and getting them in,” ATIA Chief Executive Dean Long added.  

“What we know is that across the industry, many businesses have started their own training and development courses and it’s an area where an association identifies that it needs to be doing more to make sure governments are putting money into programs the industry says needs to be funded.” 

The ATIA team

With ATIA’s win on securing funding for travel consultant training courses, various retail groups have reported a steady flow of new and youthful candidates recognising potential in a travel industry career.  

Some people have even returned to the industry after the pandemic forced them to seek more steady employment elsewhere, but many other experienced hands saw volatility in the travel sector and opted to stay away than risk returning to a profession defined by human movement which they assessed as residing on the precipice of ruin should another global health emergency emerge. 

“What we do know is that there are new people coming into the industry that require that support,” Long said. 

“That’s why we’ve seen significant investments by every group and also a lot of medium-sized businesses to do their own in-house training programs to get the outcomes they want. 

“But we do know that travel, for the most part, is a more complicated transaction and so we really need to escalate the level of support that’s available to everybody to close that gap.” 

It may be a case of preaching to the choir, but there’s no understating the economic impact the wider travel sector has to Australia. It’s a $69 billion industry and along with its specific needs, this overall economic value, which will be recalculated and updated this year, is a fact trumpeted regularly by ATIA in Canberra. 

ATIA recognises it is not a ‘father knows best’ association and is only as good as the advice its members, firmly at the coalface, provide on an ongoing basis. 

Its latest industry missive sees the association launch a ‘Skills and Workforce Survey’ to gather data on the current state of recruitment and training in the travel sector. This data will be used in ongoing lobbying efforts in Canberra and state/territory capitals. 

CLICK HERE to provide your valued insights. 

Your voice changes the message ATIA takes to Canberra and to the decision-makers around the country, so make it heard loud and clear. 

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