Scheme will “not be Mickey Mouse": AFTA

Scheme will “not be Mickey Mouse": AFTA
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Retail travel groups could become “mini Travel Compensation Funds” in a move that could provide some form of financial protection for consumers.

Jayson Westbury, chief executive of the Australian Federation of Travel Agents (AFTA), suggested business insurance products could evolve that could come to the aid of consumers left out of pocket by a travel agency collapse.

The comments came as Westbury insisted a proposed new accreditation scheme would “not be a Mickey Mouse thing”.

Speaking to Travel Today at the Travellers Choice conference in the Hunter Valley at the weekend, Westbury said branded groups “could think about how they can put their own protections in place” if, as AFTA hopes, a proposal to reform travel agency licensing and consumer compensation is approved.

“There may be business to business insurance products that might evolve where a branded group could contemplate taking out insurance that would afford some form of compensation in the event of one of their stores failing,” he said. “So their head office could become, if you like, a mini TCF.

“I am not saying that is going to happen but there is a prospect of it.”

Discussions are taking place, he said.

Westbury said its planned accreditation scheme, that would replace licensing, could include some form of financial check on travel agents, although he stressed that “prudential oversight” would not be a central plank of the scheme.

“It maybe, but only maybe, that you have to provide evidence that you have done your tax return to be in the accreditation scheme,” he said. “If you have a certain turnover you may need to provide you P&L signed by an accountant.”

Earlier in his presentation to agents at the Travellers Choice conference, Westbury told agents it will “not be a Mickey Mouse” scheme.

“It will have hurdles to jump over but nowhere near as high as TCF hurdles,” he said.

“There will not be financial criteria, there will not be bonding because there will be no compensation scheme,” he said. “But there will be acknowledgment about how long you have been in the industry, acknowledgment of your training and the training of staff and that you comply with the Australian Competition and Consumer Commission code of conduct.”

He emphasised that AFTA is looking for $3 million from TCF reserves to set up the scheme with a further $6m to educate consumers of the need to book with an accredited agent.

“One of them most important aspects will be a consistent and committed approach to driving consumers through accredited agents,” he said. “One of the failings of the TCF is that is has never done that.”

Precise details of how the scheme will operate will be drawn up if the plan is approved at the pivotal Consumer Affairs meeting on December 7.

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