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New ATAS “kind of back to the future”, says TravelManagers

Why unveil a consumer protection strategy when one, in theory, already exists? TravelManagers talks about the motivations behind its TravelManagers Customer Fund and why the company is so committed to customer protection. 



House of Travel’s TravelManagers have been working on their TravelManagers Customer Fund (TCF) since the disbanding of the original government legislated Travel Compensation Fund in 2014.


“Unlike many in the industry, TravelManagers did not perceive the original Travel Compensation Fund as an unnecessary financial burden,” House of Travel chief operating officer Grant Campbell said at the annual TravelManagers conference in Sydney. 


The original Travel Compensation Fund cost TravelManagers approximately $5,000 a year, which according to Campbell was “pretty damn good value to provide consumers with 100% protection that their funds are safe with us”. In contrast, TravelManagers multi-pronged Peace of Mind promise sets them back some $40,000 a year. 


“And although details are still being provided, I note that AFTA’s Australian Travel Accreditation Scheme is reintroducing mandatory client trust accounts for the far majority of its members. 


“It’s kind of back to the future.”


If House of Travel had its way, rather than disbanding the Travel Compensation Fund, a much more appropriate strategy would have seen its “sensible reform” to better appeal to those who considered the cost of the Travel Compensation Fund as “onerous”. 


ATAS: Here’s what an independent review found 


That’s surely better than completely disbanding it and dispersing “$23 million worth of our funds collected by Travel Compensation Fund agency members”, Campbell said. 


“Without wanting to put to fine a point on it, you don’t want to throw the baby out with the bath water.”


According to Campbell, TravelManagers had always operated a separate client trust bank account, and commissions were only ever permitted to be transferred across to its general account once the files were finalised. 


“Whilst we continued to pursue this practice, we sought independent advice in about June 2014 to actually tighten controls around our client trust account,” he said. 


“We did this when other travel intermediaries no longer needed to maintain a client trust account due to the disbandment of the Travel Compensation Fund.


“It would be remiss of me if I didn’t point out that there are some travel intermediaries out there that state quite clearly in their terms and conditions that they do not maintain a client trust bank account. In effect they are allowed to use client funds for their working capital to pay their rent and pay their wages.” 


TravelManagers has continued to contribute every single month to its TCF. 


“It’s in TravelManager DNA to provide transparency and be fiscally responsible,” Campbell said. 


“We are committed to customer protection and our risk mitigation practices makes our TCF credible and our Peace of Mind promise factual. 


“To maintain these practices through extremely dark times has been a powerful commitment to business especially when it would have been so easy to cut some if not all of these costs. 


“TravelManager’s and my personal promise to each and every PTM is that we will continue to do all within our power to protect your clients and you our PTMs from financial losses as a result of a supplier collapse," Campbell said. 


“We can’t rest on our laurels. TravelManagers’ Peace of Mind promise will need to continually evolve. We can’t just say that’s done and dusted and put it in the top drawer. We have to continue to learn about how we can enhance our protections, strengthen them and add new protections.” 


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