The Australian Federation of Travel Agents (AFTA) has confirmed the appointment of Dean Long as its new CEO.
Long will rejoin AFTA no later than mid-October after two years leading Australia’s Accommodation Association, having previously worked for the peak industry body as its head of public policy and strategic partnerships.
He has also held roles at American Express, the NSW government and Destination NSW.
Long will fill the gap at AFTA left by Darren Rudd, who vacated the CEO role in April for personal reasons.
AFTA chair Tom Manwaring said: “We couldn’t have asked for a better choice than Dean Long given his background across key sectors, his extensive experience within AFTA, and his expertise and networks across government at all levels.
“He is strategic, informed and proven in his ability to lead and strengthen member-based organisations during challenging times.
“He well and truly knows our sector and the needs of AFTA’s members as we work together to navigate the current frustrations, secure and optimise government support, and continue to reinforce the value of travel agents and businesses at an economic, employment and consumer support level.
“He has a well-deserved reputation of collaboration to maximise impact and outcomes, and that’s exactly what we need now and into the future.”
Commenting on his appointment, Long said: “I’m incredibly proud to take on the role of AFTA CEO and to work with the AFTA board and team to shape our sector’s future, and to help as many member businesses as possible get through these difficult times to emerge successfully on the other side.
“I look forward to working with members on evolving our sector and structures at an organisational and agency level so we are better able to meet the challenges of the rapidly-changing marketplace.
“AFTA will need to continue to work closely with other key peak industry bodies including the Australian Chamber of Commerce and Industry, the Business Council of Australia and the Tourism Transport Forum, as well as with industry-relevant associations such as IATA, WTAAA and BARA.
“I also look forward to continuing AFTA’s strategic collaborations with CATO and CLIA.
“There’s a lot of work to be done, but AFTA has a great board, a highly-committed and skillful team and a membership of passionate, skilled and essential businesses.
“I can’t wait to get started on this next phase of AFTA and our sector’s evolution in collaboration with members and with all of AFTA’s key relationships.”
Long’s impending exit from the Accommodation Association is perfect timing, as the industry body’s proposed merger with the Australian Hotel Association/Tourism Accommodation Australia (AHA/TAA) gathers pace.
However, the Accommodation Association hasn’t dismissed the possibility of finding a new CEO.
Accommodation Association chair Julian Clark said: “The Accommodation Association is very grateful for the strong and strategic leadership Dean has provided during his time as CEO, and especially during the unprecedented and extraordinarily difficult challenges that COVID has thrown at accommodation providers since March 2020.
“In our industry’s time of greatest need, it has been fantastic to have Dean at the helm steering the ship and liaising with government on an ongoing basis.
“Dean has been tireless in his role and his support of the sector and Accommodation Association members.
“He also leaves a strong legacy in terms of a much-strengthened team. We thank him for his contribution and know that he will always be a champion of Australia’s accommodation sector.”
Long described his time as CEO of the Accommodation Association as “both extremely rewarding and challenging thanks to COVID-19 restrictions, border closures and travel bans”.
“This is a sector full of wonderful, generous people and businesses, and never has this been more on show than via the fact that so many hotels and team members stepped in very early on to support the government’s COVID isolation program and through it returning Australians, frontline medical staff, and some of the most vulnerable in our community,” he said.
“These teams and properties have continued to provide this important support quietly, behind the scenes and despite little thanks. It’s this commitment to going above and beyond that makes this sector so very special.
“I am also very grateful for the ongoing support and leadership of the Accommodation Association board.”