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To serve and protect: AFTA CEO interview


It’s been a turbulent year for the Australian travel industry with the collapse of Tempo Holidays and Bentours. We asked JAYSON WESTBURY, CEO of the Australian Federation of Travel Agents (AFTA), whether consumers still have confidence in agents and how they can protect their holiday plans.

 

What has been your take on the events of 2019 in the travel industry?

It’s been a record year for departures, which indicates Australians can’t get enough of going overseas and on holiday.

While we had a couple of suppliers collapse, so far it appears that most consumers have been accommodated and in 99 per cent of the cases have been accommodated by a travel agent sorting out the problems.

 

So has the demise of Tempo and Bentours adversely affected confidence in travel agents?

It certainly has put a lot of strain on travel agents this year, but it’s also demonstrated quite clearly the value of a travel agent. When things do go wrong, the travel agent steps in and usually makes the pain go away.

In fact, our recent consumer research said that Australians still love travel agents, they believe in them and an agency is a place where you’re going to get good advice from someone you trust.

It also proved that the advertising we’ve been doing on TV and radio is resonating and the messaging is spot on. We saw an eight per cent increase in trust in travel agents as a result of the commercials.

 

What advice do you have for consumers when booking their holiday?

Paying for any form of travel by credit card is the best thing to do because it provides the ultimate protection. No matter what happens, you can have a chargeback from the bank and get your money back.

So if the travel agent goes broke, the supplier goes broke or something happens and you don’t get the service you paid for, you get your money back. It’s plain and simple, tried and tested and works every time.

 

 

Presumably collapses such as these is exactly the reason you set up the ATAS accreditation scheme five years ago?

Consumers who aren’t using ATAS accredited agents and agents who aren’t accredited need to ask themselves why. The scheme is there for everyone’s benefit and is doing exactly what it was designed to do. We are very proud of it.

 

What is AFTA’s goal going forwards?

Ensuring there is confidence in people and travel agents booking with Australian-based wholesalers and operators. That’s probably been the key takeout of this latest Tempo drama.

While it probably isn’t necessarily AFTA’s role, we’re certainly looking towards building something that might instil that confidence, whether that’s a new form of insurance or a new inclusion in our AFTA Chargeback Scheme.

 

So what will we see from AFTA next year?

We want to be on the front foot with consumers as much as we can. We will continue to invest in consumer-facing advertising and in the ATSA.com.au website.

We think that it is our role to be putting that front and centre in the mind of consumers, particularly at a time when there has been a bit of a wobble.

 

 

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Written by: Jayson Westbury as told to Traveltalk


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