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Politician’s plans for travel agents “not the answer”: AFTA

Before being elected to the House of Representatives for the Liberal Party in 1991, Kevin Andrews was a lawyer and specialised in health law and bioethics. A quick squiz of his bio and you will see that he has never been a travel agent. And therein lies the problem. 


When the world stopped travelling it was a sudden thing. Many of us had already paid hefty sums to travel agents with some still waiting to get it (or its value) back. 


According to Andrews, the problem is that the system needs more regulation, the West Australian reported.


"I'm not doubting the integrity of most travel agents - people are trying to do the right thing - but COVID has compounded an underlying problem."


His suggestion is that travel agents copy the real estate market where if you buy a house for example, the deposit goes into a trust account. He wants travel agents to do the same thing.


"It's to the benefit of both travellers and and agents," he said.


"I'm not saying it's the travel agents' fault but if people can travel and then become fearful that they won't be able to get refunds, it's not helpful and it's not going to do the travel industry any favours either."


But here’s the thing. Most travel agents already use trust accounts. And regulating them “isn’t the answer”, Australian Federation of Travel Agents chair Tom Manwaring told Traveltalk.


According to Manwaring, many travel agents use trust accounts or their like as part of the many requirements for the various certifications that are par for course in becoming a certified travel agent.


The bigger issue is that people still aren’t clear on how travel is booked. Travel agents aren’t stockpiling their client’s money, he said.


“Funds don’t sit in travel agent’s accounts for very long. They are passed on in a fairly tight window to other parties, many of which can be overseas.”


The reality is that travel agents have been operating on zero profit (and in some cases a loss) to retrieve funds for their clients. How many real estate agents would do that?


That said, Manwaring does think there is a likeness between travel and real estate in that a good agent can make all the difference. 


“An ATAS accredited agent offers a degree of comfort,” Manwaring said. And considering the events of the last eighteen months, I’m inclined to agree. 

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