THE Council of Australian Tour Operators (CATO) has launched a new accreditation program which it says is designed specifically for the land supply sector, saying it’s implementing the scheme in response to feedback from a survey of its members last year.
Detailed internally to the CATO membership almost three weeks ago, the “fit-for-purpose” initiative will become effective from 01 April 2023 as the organisation’s membership renewals are processed.
CATO Managing Director Brett Jardine told travelBulletin the program is “a scheme for our members to demonstrate to the industry and to their own customers that they take their sector of the industry seriously”.
While about half of CATO’s current membership is part of the Australian Travel Accreditation Scheme (ATAS) administered by AFTA, Jardine noted that “the physical structure of a tour operator or wholesaler is very, very different to that of retailers”.
“And so the view of the members is that we’ve been kind of corralled into being part of something that’s one-size-fits-all, and COVID was proof that when talking to government, you can’t have a discussion on behalf of everybody,” Jardine said.
“More than 50% of CATO members are not currently part of ATAS…why should they miss out on an opportunity to participate in something?” he added.
To be accredited under the new CATO scheme, members must hold an ABN or be formally represented locally by a GSA; acknowledge and abide by the CATO constitution; and adhere to the CATO Member Code of Conduct (CMCC) (see HERE).
“The annual renewal of CATO membership is acknowledgement that a participant (member) is aligned with, understands and complies with, all aspects of the CMCC, and is compliant with all obligations relating to financial reporting relative to the country in which the member is domiciled,” the document states.
Members must maintain relevant insurance coverage, and are encouraged to utilise the CATO-endorsed industry standard booking terms and conditions.
CATO Accredited Members are also encouraged to maintain documented policies covering crisis management, occupational health & safety, customer complaint and dispute handling, and privacy guidelines.
“Businesses less than two years old are encouraged to transact client funds through dedicated client bank accounts,” the scheme suggests, while members are also expected to adhere to the CATO Member Advertising Code of Conduct which covers truth in pricing comparisons.
There is no requirement to submit annual financials to attain CATO Accreditation, which will not be available for travel agents.
A CATO-accredited logo is being developed, with the association noting that the scheme had been “developed specifically for tour operators and travel wholesalers by CATO as the peak industry body representing the land-supply sector, whereas AFTA’s primary focus is representation of retail travel agents”.