Bunnik Tours’ joint-CEO discusses moving from ATAS to CATO accreditation

Bunnik Tours’ joint-CEO discusses moving from ATAS to CATO accreditation

Six travel industry businesses recently made the decision to drop their ATAS accreditation, with some major tour operators and wholesalers opting for CATO’s new accreditation scheme.

Among them was Bunnik Tours’ joint CEO Dennis Bunnik, who spoke to Travel Weekly this morning about the decision.

Bunnik is the chair of CATO but was speaking to Travel Weekly in his capacity as the joint-CEO of Bunnik Tours.

When asked what drew Bunnik Tours to CATO’s accreditation scheme he said it relates to the origin of CATO.

“The background on it is when the industry was deregulated, CATO was a networking association,” Bunnik said.

“Since then, CATO has been on a journey to transform into a fully-fledged proper industry association representing the land supply sector. We didn’t have our own accreditation system so our secretariat and our accreditation system was outsourced to the Travel Agents Association.

“But it was always the intention that eventually CATO would have its own accreditation system which is specifically designed for the land supply sector.”

Currently, 50 per cent of CATO members are not ATAS accredited, Bunnik said.

“So that’s another important reason why CATO needed to develop its own accreditation to improve business. I believe that there’ll be a large number of tour operators and wholesalers who will probably continue to have both. And that’s an individual decision for each business to make.”

The crux of Bunnik’s decision came down to the operational structure and legal responsibilities of tour operators and wholesalers, which varies quite a bit to those of travel agencies.

“Especially when it comes to the terms and conditions and the right insurances and stuff in place. That is what the CATO accreditation is focused on.”

Bunnik said that as a tour operator, “it’s just a much better fit.”

“We’re still happy to support AFTA.”

Bunnik Tours had the desire to support AFTA through allied membership in the same way that car rental services, cruise lines and airlines do, but this wasn’t accepted and it was forced to end the 28 year relationship. Travel Weekly asked Bunnik why this relationship was forced to end.

“AFTA’s position was that we couldn’t be an associate or an allied member and that we had to be ATAS accredited as we’re, in their eyes, a travel intermediary. So that was the reason that I was given,” Bunnik said.

This begged the question, is it possible for a business to be ATAS accredited and CATO accredited?

“No, I think businesses can. Businesses can definitely be both. There’s no issue and a number of other tour operators and wholesalers are maintaining both accreditations,” Bunnik said.

“Bunnik Tours has made a decision where we’re IATA accredited. IATA provides the highest level of financial oversight within the industry and the CATO accreditation system ensures we’ve got all the business terms and conditions, legal structure, insurances and all of those other compliance things in place. Between the two of them they cover everything.

“With IATA and CATO providing full fit-for-purpose accreditation coverage we made the decision to drop ATAS accreditation. That said, we remain fully supportive of industry associations and the support AFTA provides their core travel agents members.

“We hope that in time we will be able to support this through allied membership.”

In response to inquiry from Travel Weekly regarding the companies that pulled out of ATAS, the CEO of AFTA Dean Long provided this statement:

“The value of AFTA membership and ATAS accreditation continues to drive strong renewals including the number of Tour Operators which has actually increased,” Long said.

AFTA CEO Dean Long

“Our membership reflects the diversity of Travel with strong representation from wholesalers, consolidators and cruise lines as well as travel management companies and travel agents.

“AFTA has and will always be committed to representing all our members from travel agents and businesses to tour operators based on the fundamental belief that working together is our greatest strength. This is how we have secured major wins including the $270million in Federal funding for our members and the recent expansion of the Federal Government’s Skills Priority List.”

For more on the new CATO accreditation scheme and why Sun Islands Tours made the swap, click here.

Featured Image: Dennis Bunnik

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