AFTA tweaks accreditation plan ahead of next phase

AFTA tweaks accreditation plan ahead of next phase
By admin


The Australian Federation of Travel Agents (AFTA) has reported “really positive” feedback to its plans for a new industry accreditation scheme as it works towards getting back on the road with finalised criteria in November.

The initial industry consultation period saw AFTA reach around 650 agents during its series of workshops in nine cities. It also hosted a webinar for those unable to attend a workshop, attracting around 100 participants.

“We went on the road with our draft accreditation criteria and, taking on board the industry’s feedback, we are now fine-tuning elements of some those,” general manager accreditation, Gary O’Riordan, told Travel Today.

As a result, two of the criteria concerning consumer protection and engagement will be merged, meaning the number of criteria that will be brought before the board for final approval now stands at eight.

O’Riordan reported overall feedback to the criteria was good with major points of discussion being around the determination of solvency and insurance.

“We thought we’d have more debate around business compliance but, surprisingly, that was pretty much smooth sailing,” he said.

He confirmed that AFTA is still finalising the test of solvency, but that it is “very close’.

“Essentially, the test is that you must be running a solvent business, therefore either your working capital must exceed your overheads and expenditure or your current assets must exceed you current liabilities – so we’re playing with words,” he said.

Businesses will need to supply a copy of certified financial accounts, while those that are ASX-listed or IATA-accredited can provide a copy of those audits.

Meanwhile, insurance is still being finalised with AFTA’s broker Gow Gates which is dealing with UK-based International Passenger Protection (IPP).

“We’re hopeful of bringing a supply piece to market in the coming months, but we’re still working through it,” O’Riordan revealed.

The two part insurance offering will cover supplier insolvency and travel intermediary insolvency insurance.

“The latter is a little less developed because the Travel Compensation Fund still has nine months to run,” he admitted. But he added that the supplier insolvency side is “really gathering momentum”.

The policies will be at additional cost to agents with the fee based on individual risk assessments. The agent can then decide whether to absorb that cost or pass it on to their clients in the form of a fee.

While both will be optional, O’Riordan was confident they would see significant uptake.

“It makes sense,” he insisted. “Not just because of the cover it provides the agent but also the consumer who books through them.”

In his view, the scheme will not be compromised by the optional nature of the insurance policies.

“Accredited agents have to hold public liability and official indemnity cover so that’s a starting point.”

Meanwhile, brand agency Added Value has been appointed to develop the scheme’s new name and concept, designed to resonate with both the trade and the consumer. More details will be revealed in the coming weeks.

The next phase of the process will see AFTA get back on the road in November for a series of “transitional” workshops to introduce the industry to the new brand and the finalised criteria.

O’Riordan is hopeful that the second series will attract an even greater number of agents as word spreads through the industry.

This time round, the detail will be much more practical and technical, informing agents of what they need to do to participate in the new scheme and giving more detail around areas like insurance and certified accounts.

By then, O’Riordan hopes to be able to offer more clarity around when the application process will open which will be driven in part by the appointment of a developer to manage the technical requirement of the scheme and its application process within the next month.

However, he estimated between two and three months would be required to process applications in time for the scheme's July kick-off.

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