Tourism

CATO chairman takes aim at “deceptive and misleading” advertising by industry disruptors

At the recent annual general meeting of the Council of Australian Tour Operators (CATO) in Sydney, re-elected chairman Dennis Bunnik highlighted the importance advertising with integrity.

In his address to members, Bunnik hit out at the proliferation of travel packages now being advertised with disingenuous discounts by high-profile travel industry disruptors, saying it undermines the credibility of the industry and diminishes retail travel agent revenue as consumers are lured by misleading pricing claims.

“I am specifically talking about ‘typically’ or ‘valued at’ pricing, which is often so unrealistic it is laughable,” he told CATO members.

“We’re not here to stop competition. Competition is good. Competition grows the market, keeps us all on our toes and encourages us to do better.

“However, there is an issue when that competition is engaged in deceptive and misleading conduct, especially around advertising and the practice of encouraging positive reviews through incentives.

“Our aim is simply to ensure everybody adheres to ACCC advertising ethics and guidelines as required under Australian Consumer Law.”

Bunnik called on CATO members to show leadership in supporting an industry-led approach to ethical advertising.

While acknowledging the healthy competition from the emergence of disruptive OTAs, Bunnik highlighted the need for all travel intermediaries to adhere to Australian competition and advertising guidelines that are being flaunted by a number of high-profile businesses.

“I doubt many individual travel agents realise exactly how much they are losing to clients booking direct with the disrupters,” he said.

CATO is currently working with the Australian Federation of Travel Agents (AFTA) on this issue, having recently held a roundtable discussion.

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