The Australian Federation of Travel Agents (AFTA) has ramped up its efforts to protect travel agents from the “misreporting” of refunds on cancelled trips by mainstream media outlets.
In what the federation is calling ‘The Facts’ campaign, AFTA has been working to “errors of fact” in mainstream reporting as well as raising awareness through strategic media engagement.
Yesterday, AFTA sent out a brief to mainstream TV, print and radio newsrooms across Australia titled “The facts on travel agents and refunds”.
The campaign is a response to what the industry body claims are unbalanced media reports about agent cancellation fees in the wake of COVID-19 cancellations.
AFTA chief executive Jason Westbury said the federation continues to work hard with supportive media, both trade and mainstream, “to showcase the fact that travel agents right around Australia are going above and beyond to support clients and non-clients”.
“We have been selective and strategic in this approach, choosing influential media with as broad a footprint as possible so that we get maximum impact,” Westbury said.
“We have also been very careful not to give oxygen to stories or outlets where there is a clear agenda to misrepresent a situation including publishing first and seeking clarification and comment post-publication.
“All travel agents across Australia should know that AFTA is doing all that we can to hold strong on a positive media strategy at this dreadful time of COVID-19, but we are not able to control stories that are released by some media outlets at this time.”
In the release sent to mainstream media, AFTA said travel agents are being “unfairly blamed” during a time of unprecedented cancellations and changes due to COVID-19 and the restrictions imposed as a result.
The release outlines the role of suppliers in providing refunds or credits, delays in refunds, travel insurance, new bookings, and cancellation fees.
“Travel agents, like everyone else, deserve to be paid for work that they do especially in situations like this, which are not of their making and which are considerably more convoluted and time consuming than normal,” it reads.
“Paying a small, reasonable fee for this work given the reality of the COVID-19 pandemic is appropriate recognition of the time travel agents are investing in helping consumers understand what your options are and how best to access them.
“Agents are, in fact, spending countless hours assisting consumers for no revenue. Not only have they completed the initial work in advising and assisting with your original booking, they now have to make amendments, sometimes numerous times as the situation evolves.
“Many end suppliers are also withholding remuneration from agents, which is derived for making the sale. The system and revenue flow to agents for their time spent is not designed for cancellations and refunds.
“Agents are doing all they can for clients and are caught in the middle without any control over the actions of suppliers.”
You can read the release in full here.
Featured image: iStock/Tero Vesalainen