Nothing spoils a holiday more than finding out that one of the tour operators responsible for making your dream getaway come true has gone belly up. How will you get your money back? Who will advocate on your behalf?
In June 2014 the government-legislated Travel Compensation Fund (TCF), and the protection it provided travellers should a travel company go out of business, was disbanded by State and Commonwealth governments.
While TravelManagers could acknowledge the reasons it was discontinued, and have since been endorsed by the Australia Federation of Travel Agents’ (AFTA) Travel Accreditation Scheme which succeeded it, they advocated for the retention of the Travel Compensation Fund. So when the TCF went away, they simply created their own.
“The resulting reduction in consumer protection motivated us to create our own additional system of protections in support of AFTA’s position on self-regulation,” TravelManagers chief operating officer Grant Campbell said.
And so TravelManagers Customer Fund (conveniently also dubbed TCF) was born, Campbell describing it as “the final component in our consumer ‘Peace of Mind’ promise”.
Collectively, Campbell says that promise is constructed on a system of protections which help shield clients from financial losses that could result from the insolvency of scheduled airlines and end suppliers such as tour operators, cruise companies and hotels.
According to Campbell, TravelManagers’ TCF has accumulated $650,000 since it was established in December 2019, with further regular contributions set to see this increase to $1 million by December 2023.
“The fund has been ringfenced from TravelManagers’ general accounts by the establishment of a separate company with its own directors – an important element which upholds our commitment to governance and fiscal responsibility.”
TravelManagers’ TCF provides an additional tier to TravelManagers’ existing consumer protection: an industry-leading guarantee which now comprises three separate, transparent and completely verifiable layers, Campbell says.
“In addition to the TCF, client payments can only be made by credit card or direct bank deposit, and are paid directly into a dedicated Client Trust account,” he explains.
“These funds are held in trust until payment is made directly to each travel supplier, plus we have the additional protection of a Trust Account Fidelity Risk insurance (TACTAFI) policy which protects client funds in the unlikely event that they are missing from, or not paid into the Insured Trust Account as a result of fraudulent or dishonest activity.”
TravelManagers’ Client Trust account has operated uninterrupted since the company was acquired by House of Travel in 2007 and has been subject to quarterly external audits which are published on the company’s website since 2014.
TravelManagers’ personal travel managers are covered by the company’s Credit Card Chargeback Insurance (CCCBI), which help protect PTMs from loss in the event that a supplier collapse results in any chargebacks.
Campbell believes the multi-layered and transparent system of protection which comprises TravelManagers’ ‘Peace of Mind’ Promise is unique in the Australian market.
“What’s more, we believe we are the only travel company in the world that has voluntarily had its client trust account independently audited, with each audit published on its website. Other travel brands may claim to have their own versions of a ‘Peace of Mind’ promise, but a lack of transparency makes it difficult to determine their mechanics or effectiveness.”
“From quarterly published audits of our Client Trust Account to a complete list of approved suppliers, both of which are readily available on our website, clients and PTMs are fully informed of the protections that cocoon their travel transactions every step of the way.”
Campbell points out that no agency owner, franchisee or home-based travel advisor wants to tell a customer that a supplier they have booked on their customers behalf has gone out of business and that the customer has lost their money and TravelManagers’ framework of protections is working not just for clients but also for its PTMs: a view which is supported by feedback from PTMs themselves.
Cathy Moir, who has been representative for Gymea Bay, NSW since September 2007, says the transparency and thoroughness of the elements that comprised TravelManagers’ ‘Peace of Mind’ were major factors in her decision when she joined the network of home-based travel professionals.
“There will always be uncertainty and volatility in global financial circumstances to contend with in a business environment,” she explains, “so for me, it was essential to align with a travel brand that places such strong emphasis on protecting the interests of its people and customers. The TravelManagers Consumer Fund slots into place like the final piece of a puzzle that was started fifteen years ago.”
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