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                         AFTA CEO Update - Tuesday 14 Jan, 2020

THE new decade is upon us and 2020 has kicked off with some very sobering news around the fires that have engulfed our nation, and very sadly taken the lives of so many. It is a dreadful situation that the country finds itself in and of course we are only half way through summer. As some containment and a softening of weather conditions provides much needed signs of hope, the travel and tourism industry has become a new story line which is close to us all, but also very important for the nation and our industry.

Domestic holidays are something that the travel agency community has sold for years and continues to sell. This fact is often a surprise to govt and other stakeholders, as it is the media who has said “it’s all done online direct these days”, which of course we in the travel game know is not actually true. But having said that, the issue for fire-impacted regions that fall within hamlets that may not be internationally known, or contained within a domestic wholesaler’s/tour operator’s brochure that will really need the help. And, in some cases the building and reconstruction of facilities and infrastructure is only just beginning.

So the question for the travel eco-system is: “what can we do to help?” As small regions in NSW, Victoria and South Australia look to market and outline what they can offer and what is open and available, it is something for the travel agency community to keep an eye on if we are able help people look to support these areas where possible with a holiday or visit.

Over the coming weeks, I suspect more will be announced and done by the industry and the government, and AFTA will be sure to be supporting and updating when we can. The second sobering news for 2020 is the appointment of administrators to Excite Holidays. This is yet another difficult situation for those travel agents who held bookings with Excite and what they now must do to re-accommodate clients. There are many and very serious questions that must and will be asked going forward with this company and while Excite was NOT an ATAS accredited entity, AFTA will ensure that due process is followed in finding out the truth.

For the past few months the behaviour of this company is in question, and while agents have been left holding the pieces, it is good to note that many of the groups and other platforms are offering to help where they can. I do also note that as Excite was not ATAS accredited, there is no cover from the ACS Scheme and I just hope that impacted agents have taken some form of business process that will allow them to alleviate some of the exposure to loss that I am sure many have now found themselves in. Certainly not the kick off to the year that we were all hoping for and let’s just say, my hope is that things can now only get better for the year ahead.