The Council of Australian Tour Operators (CATO) held its annual general meeting last night with a call to gain momentum as a lobby group and represent land touring as a powerbroker.
Land touring could have as much value as the cruise industry, but CATO needs data to represent the size and influence of the industry.
“We could be bigger than cruising but no one would know,” CATO chairman Dennis Bunnik said.
The call for tour operators to share their departure figures was supported by an independent audit system to ensure that the CATO board would not see individual operator’s confidential information.
AFTA declared its support for CATO with an address from Jayson Westbury.
“The sooner you guys get together and get that data out the better. Data is king,” Westbury said.
Bunnik referred to the change of brand that cruising had. The tragic death of Dianne Brimble on a cruise in 2002 was a PR disaster for the cruise industry in Australia.
Cruising was seen as targeting “boozers, newly wed and newly dead,” Bunnik said.
“Now everyone is cruising. They educated, engaged and inspired the agents,” Bunnik said.
“We need consultants to think about touring. Now we have ‘travel and cruise centres’. Where are the touring centres? Where are the master classes for touring?” Bunnik said.
CATO financials were revealed on the night, with $50,000 a year income and $50,000 expenditure.
Run by volunteers, Bunnik called for the association to take itself more seriously, and flagged an increase in annual fees.
“We don’t know what we’re going to start charging yet,” Bunnik said.
Current fees to join the organisation stand at $600 a year, and Bunnik confirmed it will not be the same fee next year.