By Brett Jardine, Managing Director, Council of Australian Tour Operators
Momentum continues to build with the recently launched CATO Accreditation program as industry participants embrace the fundamental structural differences between tour operators, travel wholesalers and retail agents.
CATO Members are Australian based tour operators and wholesalers that take the risk to invest in, develop, package, distribute and market product that is primarily sold through travel agents.
The CATO Accreditation scheme, which launched on the 1st of April 2023, is a fit-for-purpose program for our members that was developed in conjunction with the CATO Member Code of Conduct. It is the end result of two years of consultation with members, focus groups, strategy days and board meetings.
The CATO Member Code of Conduct references guidelines from the Australian Competition and Consumer Commission (ACCC) for effective participation as a voluntary industry code of conduct and outlines the objectives, expectations, and guidelines for CATO Member operations.
A major element of the CATO Accreditation program is that it provides an additional layer of peace of mind for Australian travel agents and consumers when booking international leisure travel. It is important to understand that when booking through a CATO Accredited Member, there are protections available under Australian consumer law that do not exist when booking directly with foreign based DMC’s and suppliers.
Similar to the way in which CLIA is run by cruise lines to primarily supports its member cruise lines, CATO is run by tour operators and wholesalers who are best placed to understand the needs of tour operators and wholesalers.
Retail agents are a critical distribution channel for our members and our CATO Accreditation scheme is now in place to ensure agents can easily identify the tour operators and wholesalers that are here to support the trade.