At the recent AGM of the Council of Australian Tour Operators (CATO) held in Sydney, the re-elected Chairman, Dennis Bunnik, focused on an issue he's particularly passionate about — advertising with integrity —during his address to Members.
Referring to the proliferation of travel packages now being advertised with apparently disingenuous discounts by high-profile travel industry disruptors, Bunnik claimed this undermines the credibility of the industry and diminishesretail travel agent revenue as consumers are lured by misleading pricing claims.
"I am specifically talking about ‘typically’ or ‘valued at’ pricing which is often so unrealistic it is laughable", said Bunnik.
"We’re not here to stop competition. Competition is good. Competition grows the market, keeps us all on our toes and encourages us to do better. However, there is an issue when that competition is engaged in deceptive and misleading conduct, especially around advertising and the practice of encouraging positive reviews through incentives.
“Our aim is simply to ensure everybody adheres to ACCC advertising ethics and guidelines as required under Australian Consumer Law", he added.
CATO recently held a round-table discussion with AFTA to see how it can tackle this issue, and will continue to work with the Australian Federation of Travel Agents (AFTA) in this area.
Bunnik called on CATO members to show leadership in supporting an industry led approach to ethical advertising. Whilst acknowledging the healthy competition from the emergence of disruptive OTA’s, Bunnik highlighted the need for all travel intermediaries to adhere to Australian Competition and Advertising guidelines that are being flaunted by a number of high-profile businesses.
“I doubt many individual travel agents realise exactly how much they are losing to clients booking direct with the disrupters”, said Bunnik.
Accordingly, CATO plans to continue to develop and promote the CATO brand and demonstrate to both travel agents and the public the benefits of dealing with a CATO member business.
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