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Q&A: CATO Managing Director Brett Jardine dispels myths on new accreditation scheme

"There has never been any intended comparison with ATAS," Jardine implored.

CATO Managing Director, Brett Jardine

Council of Australian Tour Operators (CATO) Managing Director, Brett Jardine, spoke to Traveltalk to dispel some bothersome myths and rumours surrounding CATO's forthcoming accreditation program, which will come into effect from 1 April 2023.


Thanks for your time Brett. What is the difference between CATO membership and CATO accreditation? Does a business need both? Or does one suffice?

CATO Accreditation is a fit-for-purpose scheme that has been developed for our tour operator and travel wholesale members. These are our full members and there is no cost for CATO Accreditation in addition to annual membership fees.

And then we have associate members that are product and/or service suppliers looking to engage and support tour operators and wholesalers, our full members. So the accreditation is aimed at the full members who are deemed tour operators and wholesalers.

Jardine said CATO Accreditation is a fit-for-purpose program for the land supply sector.

Is there going to be a consumer facing advertising campaign, similar to what ATAS did, encouraging travellers to make sure that they book with a CATO-accredited tour operator?

No. Nothing like that.

There won’t be a paid consumer campaign as CATO is an industry body and we don't have, nor do we purport to have, millions of dollars that would be required on an ongoing basis to provide consumer awareness.

The majority of business written by CATO members is with the support of, or through retail travel agents. This is a fit-for-purpose industry scheme that’s in place to provide operational guidance for members, in order to demonstrate their professional standing within the global travel ecosystem and expectations, around high standards of product and/or service delivery through sustainable best practice.

As part of the roll-out of CATO Accreditation, what we will be doing is raising awareness within the trade around the benefits of using a CATO member, as opposed to the very risky approach of dealing directly with foreign based DMCs and suppliers.


Do you expect CATO accreditation to help tour operators stand out to travel agents and the travelling public over those that aren't accredited?

Yes, absolutely. It's a mark of excellence.

CATO Accreditation has been in development for over two years

Will there need to be some education on the benefits of accreditation?

Keep in mind this is something we've been discussing with members for over two years now.

Members will proudly display their CATO accreditation when dealing with the trade or consumers and like most industry accreditations, for businesses that take the sector they're working in seriously, it will help them to stand out from their competitors, absolutely.


What will CATO deliver for accredited tour operators that ATAS doesn't currently provide?

This is not a comparison with ATAS and is not intended to be. I think that needs to be made very clear.

Tour operators and wholesalers are a vastly different business structure to retail travel agents. Tour operators and wholesalers take the risk to invest in, to develop, and to distribute product many years before it's sold into the market, primarily through retail travel agents.

The principal role of a retail agent is to sell product and the vast majority of them are very good at it. Tour operators and wholesalers build product, they're like manufacturers, akin to developers in the building industry. They build the product and travel agents sell the product. That's two very different structures. There has never been any intended comparison with ATAS.

Jardine said CATO accredited businesses will proudly display their certification.

Will CATO accreditation operate in parallel to ATAS?

For the CATO members that are participants in ATAS, courtesy of membership with AFTA, if relevant for them, that is their own commercial decision.

They can run with both, absolutely, there’s no way in the world we would ever suggest to anyone that it's ‘us or them’. It’s just not like that. There's no comparison, and no CATO members will ever be forced to make a choice.

We’ve made something available that's fit for purpose for the land supply sector and more than half of our members do not participate in ATAS, and that's their own choice. ATAS is a voluntary industry scheme, and it is the choice of any organisation if they do or don't participate.

CATO accreditation is providing an opportunity for all Australian based tour operators and wholesalers to participate in a scheme that has been developed by tour operators and wholesalers for tour operators and wholesalers. We know best what we need!


Will conversations that CATO has with government for the benefit of its accredited members change for those that are accredited as opposed to those that simply members?

No. Ultimately, our role as CATO is to represent the land supply sector. Organisations that participate in that sector that take their business seriously are members of CATO.

There are potentially many others that are tour operators and wholesalers that are not members of CATO.Would we like to have them as members? Yes, absolutely. But ultimately when we have discussions with any government department, our engagement is focused on helping them to understand exactly what it is that we do, what the structure of our members’ business is, and what the relevance is compared to other parts of the industry.


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Written by: Matt Lennon
Published: 7 March 2023

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