Travel Agents

AFTA reveals job criteria for new CEO, urges industry to “speak with a single voice”

The Australian Federation of Travel Agents (AFTA) has commenced its search for the replacement of disgraced former CEO Jayson Westbury.

AFTA’s board has appointed a subcommittee to manage the process, as well as enlisting the services of Brown & Chase and Temple Executive Search to help find the peak industry body’s new chief.

According to a statement issued on Friday, the AFTA board of directors is seeking “an experienced and strategic-minded business leader who can appropriately represent and advocate on behalf of our diverse travel sector”.

“The board is looking for a skilled business leader who can develop effective and influential relationships with key stakeholders across government, members, suppliers, media, and leaders of allied industry bodies,” AFTA chair Tom Manwaring (pictured above) said.

“We are cognisant of the fact that the post-COVID travel landscape is going to be very different and we are recruiting with this in mind.

“The incoming CEO will be someone who can develop high-quality business strategies that address the needs of AFTA’s membership base, which consists of some 3,000 travel agency businesses, from large corporations through to the small independent travel business, as well as build the framework for a strong and resilient industry post-COVID-19.”

Manwaring said the new CEO will also be responsible for leading a team of nine staff at AFTA’s head office in Sydney.

“Until such time as we appoint a suitably qualified CEO, the AFTA team remains robust, well connected and committed,” he said.

AFTA’s search for a new leader comes after the resignation of Jayson Westbury last month over comments he made about TV host Tracy Grimshaw during an online seminar.

In a separate statement issued on Friday, AFTA urged the travel industry to “speak with a single voice” to maximise the potential for ongoing government support.

The industry body said it has produced a number of detailed submissions to Treasury in partnership with KPMG as part of its ongoing lobbying, with a final paper formally putting forward the travel industry’s case for a JobKeeper extension expected to be lodged on Tuesday.

However, AFTA warned that a grassroots email campaign from tour operators and agents targeting local parliamentarians threatens to derail its hard work at a critical time, and has asked its members to instead channel their energy via its sentiment survey.

“Treasury and government have made it very clear that they need hard facts and data to determine the expansion of eligibility for JobKeeper,” Manwaring said.

“This is why we have invested time and resources in partnering with KPMG to provide the level of detail necessary.

“This lobbying has been underway since the start of the pandemic with the AFTA team advocating since late January on the need for government support for travel agents and our sector. It’s a complex and detailed interaction and it takes time.

“We are fighting on multiple fronts and we want to make sure that our message does not get diluted or confused. Writing a letter to your MP might make you feel good, but it may in fact be counter-productive to AFTA’s efforts and may not assist with the process at this late stage.”

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