As today we say RIP to the Travel Compensation Fund (TCF) and welcome to the new the industry-led accreditation scheme, ATAS, the Australian travel industry enters a new era.

It has been five years of extensive discussion, analysis and consultation, but now AFTA CEO Jayson Westbury says “ATAS participation already reflects the majority of the industry in terms of turnover, and agents with a growing list of independents and majors already accredited including Flight Centre, Helloworld, Magellan, MTA, CTM, TravelPartners, Travel Counsellors, Travellers Choice, and the Travel Corporation while key industry bodies including CATO have also thrown their weight behind it.”

Mr Westbury commented that the industry can now operate within a flexible, equitable framework which accommodates the significant diversity of the Australian travel industry.

“It applies the rigor of Australian Consumer Law, accommodates the evolution of the way consumers buy travel, and which more fairly spreads responsibility across the entire industry rather than just travel agents,” Mr Westbury added.

For the first time, ATAS agency owners and their customers will now be protected by mandatory professional indemnity and public liability insurance, in addition to the baseline consumer protection that all businesses must adhere to under Australian Consumer Law.

“ATAS further enhances the professionalism of the travel sector in Australia, mirroring those schemes in place for most other professions,” Mr Westbury said

The new structure brings the oversight of the travel sector in line with other professions across the country, something Mr Westbury believes can only be a good thing for our industry and consumers alike.

Australia is the first to operate under a de-regulated environment by introducing ATAS as a form of professional industry acknowledgement while showcasing the value of booking through agents.

“The USA de-regulated approach where consumer protection is provided via federal laws is not very different to our consumer law framework and the reputation of the 14,000-plus travel agents is outstanding,” Mr Westbury said.

“A key focus of AFTA and Government is to showcase those benefits to consumers and this never happened under the previous regime,” Mr Westbury concluded.

As day one under the ATAS is here, what are your thoughts on the future of travel agencies?