The Australian Federation of Travel Agents (AFTA) has revealed the only applicants to have so far been refused ATAS accreditation have fallen into the category of online start-ups as a Bali holiday scam hit the news.
To date, almost 2000 travel intermediaries have been finalised under the ATAS accreditation scheme, AFTA chief executive Jayson Westbury told Travel Today.
He revealed accreditation has only been withheld from a handful of start-ups that had applied to join the scheme but been “knocked back” under its criteria number nine.
“A lot of them are finding that hurdle a little bit difficult and rightly so,” he said. “What happens when they do get knocked back is they get 30 days to respond.”
But he stressed that, to date, only around a dozen such start-ups had applied to become accredited, rather than the “thousands” anticipated by many. Although he expected more would “pop up” in the future.
Westbury said scrutiny of such businesses was necessary, referring to a recent online website scam concerning the sale of Bali holidays under the business name Bali Indulgence as covered in Channel Nine’s A Current Affair program on Monday night.
AFTA confirmed that the company, owned by Chivonne Betts, had never operated as a licensed Australian travel agent under the Travel Compensation Fund, nor has it applied to become ATAS-acccredited.
“Website scams have come and gone over the years and it is very unfortunate for those consumers that have been caught up in this situation,” it said.
“This does highlight an important reminder to consumers of the importance of booking travel through an ATAS-accredited travel agent.
“ATAS businesses do need to meet high quality standards of business practices, training and professionalism, something that was clearly missing with the website at the centre of this scam.”
Meanwhile, the Queensland Office of Fair Trading and the Western Australia Consumer Protection is calling on consumers who have had “unsatisfactory dealings” with Bali Indulgence or its owner to report the matter.