Episode 78:

 Blurring the Lines between Tour Operators and Travel Advisors: Does it Matter in a Unified Travel Industry?

You can listen directly here. 

Our guest for this episode is Brett Jardine, the Executive Director of the Council of Australian Tour Operators (CATO). CATO represents domestic and outbound tour operators and wholesalers that focus on leisure travel. 


Brett clarifies that they represent only the tour operators and wholesalers based in Australia, who then have contracts with destination management companies and suppliers. 


CATO works closely with other associations worldwide, such as USTOA, the European Tour Operators Association, and the Canadian Association of Tour Operators, to ensure they remain aligned with the best practices in the industry. 


During COVID, CATO worked closely with the government to support the industry and ensure a fair outcome for both consumers and businesses. The ACCC, in particular, was an essential partner for the organisation, as they helped ensure that consumers' money was protected.


We discuss the importance of understanding the legalities of the travel industry and the potential risks involved when blurring the lines between agent and principal. 


Brett highlights the importance of having the correct booking terms and conditions to protect businesses in times of crisis, and the significance of working with specialist lawyers to ensure businesses have the right terms and conditions in place. He also stresses the importance of having tour operator's liability insurance policies when escorting groups, and encourages those in the industry to seek guidance from experts.


Make sure you stay up to date with the podcast by subscribing and downloading our free resources and checklists to help you with your travel business. https://travelagentachievers.com/

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Links Mentioned in the Episode


New Zealand -  Travel Agents’ Association of New Zealand (TAANZ)

USTOA - United States Tour Operator Association

Canada - Canadian Association of Tour Operators (CATO)

Social Media Pages: 





Quotes from this Episode 


“Ultimately, we are the key to unlocking these future travel credits that were locked up, because we're the ones that have the relationships with the destination management companies and suppliers overseas.” - Brett Jardine


“Our role is to help businesses. It's not to put roadblocks in the way, it's there to help and guide and make sure that Australian businesses are doing the right thing by Australian consumers.” -Brett Jardine


“You are a retailer. Most people become retail travel agents for one primary reason. That's because they love people.” - Brett Jardine


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"CATO & Role with Travel Advisors as we move into a new era".


Ros: Hey, everybody. Welcome back to the Travel Agent Achievers Podcast. I'm Ros. And today I am welcoming a very special guest to talk about something that is not something we usually do. But I think it's incredibly important as you own a travel business moving forward, especially after what we've come through over the last couple of years. So I'd love to welcome Brett Jardine who is the managing director of CATO, he sits on the board of CATO. And I could easily tell you what CATO is, but instead of me doing that, I'm going to have Brett do it. Welcome to the podcast. Brett, thank you so much for joining me today.


Brett: Thanks, Ros. It's a pleasure and thanks for the opportunity.


Ros: Brett? What is CATO? What is it that you do?


Brett: CATO? Well, like every good association, CATO is our acronym, C-A-T-O. And that stands for the Council of Australian Tour Operators. In a nutshell, we represent domestic and outbound tour operators and wholesalers that are focused on leisure travel. So let's say, pre COVID, there were six and a half million Australians who went overseas for a leisure based holiday. That's not business travel. It's not VFR. That's just leisure. And our members would account for a pretty significant chunk of that six and a half million people.


Ros: Wow, six and a half million people as outbound travelers, okay. So CATO represents the body there of tour operators, DMCs wholesalers suppliers.


Brett: Just to clarify that this is just tour operators and wholesalers. So when you look at our our supply chain or our ecosystem, consume typically typical transaction, consumer would walk through retail travel agent would book through Australian based tour operator or wholesaler, who would have then contracts in place with destination management companies or DMCs, who then sort out all the ground arrangements locally in destination with suppliers. So there's all of those different levels and we are the tour operators and wholesalers based here in Australia that have an Australian ABN.

Ros: Right. So there are associations around the world for anybody that's listening to this that is not in Australia, can you just run through the list of those that CATO also has an alliance with?

Brett: Yeah, for sure. So close to home in New Zealand, not certainly New Zealand Outbound Suppliers Travel Association, we work very closely with them. In the United States,  it's the USTOA or the United States Tour Operators Association. In Canada is the Canadian Association of Tour Operators, which, incidentally is also CATO. And funnily enough, also run by a guy by the name of Brett, he's a great guy we would talk very regularly. And in Europe, it's the European Tour Operators Association or ETOA. And in the UK, the Association of Independent Tour Operators, which is AITO. So yes, through COVID, particularly, we all spoken on a regular basis, we got together on yes, zoom meetings, like everybody else on a regular basis to just to get a lay of the land in all of the different regions and understand what was going on to ensure that we were all aligned with you know, really best practice and the best way to approach dealing with consumers, particularly that we're, we're struggling to understand, where's my money, I can't take my trip, where's my money? 

Ros: So from a travel agent's perspective, I mean, that relationship that we have, as well with wholesalers and tour operators there, I mean, is a big deal for us as well. And I know from my own experience coming through the incredibly tough time that we've all had, it was really important to me to rely on the relationships that I had with those people to say, what's going on in your world? How are you guys working so that we were both on the same page and understanding that so it's really good to hear that from an industry bodies and associations that you were also speaking to not only those that were part of your membership, and still are but also from a global perspective, so that you were all on the same page because I think that that's a really important thing that we can all work together to come through any challenging times, but also through the good times that we have those relationships on a global perspective to, you know, bounce off each other and hear what's going on because I don't think that each country experienced exactly, the same thing, but you were all able to learn from each other, right?

Brett: Yeah, absolutely. And, you know, there was a lot of learnings, I think, at the start of COVID. To begin with, we'd never really needed to go to the government for any help in any way, shape or form prior to something like COVID hitting. Our members are made up of entrepreneurs and small business owners who just want to get on with running their business without the red tape. And, you know, for the last nearly 10 years now, we've been working in a deregulated environment, and it's worked really well. And our role through COVID, if we just take a look back, was to talk to the government to help them understand the ecosystem better, and where support was needed to ensure the industry didn't fall over. We took a very positive approach with the ACCC, to help them understand typically, what the booking terms and conditions are of a tour operator or wholesaler, and to work with them. So they were also very clear on the status of consumers' money. 


What we learned, interestingly, with the ACCC was, whilst a consumer would typically look at the ACCC as this consumer watchdog with a big stick, they're actually there to support business, as well to make sure they're doing the right thing. And their goal is not to destroy business over things like this, it's to support them and help them navigate our way through to ensure that there is a fair and reasonable outcome for both sides. And so I take my hat off to them as a government department, I think they did a really good job through COVID.

Ros: I absolutely agree. Because I know from our end, as travel advisors, as well, we were hearing all the scary stories, and it's like, well, it's out of our control. Like, it's just, for me, it's just so good to hear that It wasn't just, you know, CATO Association, but I think a whole range of associations that were able to come together and really pitch or advocate for the whole industry, because we couldn't do it individually, it had to come from, you know, the bodies that help us get through these challenging times, but also the good times as well.


Brett: So, it's a really good point Ros when, you know, if you or I were independent business owners, and went to the tourism minister, or the Department of Treasury or Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade, and today, this is going on and I need any help. The first thing that's the reaction that you'll get from the government is, well go back and talk to your industry body, and, and they will talk to us. The government is very strong in supporting industry bodies. And they want to know what the entire industry or the entire sector is thinking so and where they stand so that, unless you're an organization the size of Qantas, that's probably the best example in our industry, where they do have governments here, the rest of us, by and large, as independent business owners do not. And so that's where the industry bodies’ really important and, and ultimately, when you're a member of an industry body, it's an indication that you take the sector of the industry that you work in very seriously. And when the good times are flowing, that's great, but when something happens that you need support with the industry bodies there to back you up and back up the entire sector, which is really important.


Ros: Yeah. So generally, I mean, from a CATO perspective, and you and your role as the managing director here in Australia. So how is CATO made up? You've mentioned that there's a board of directors, and I know from what it is that you actually do covering the four areas of advocacy, research, education and marketing, but how is CATO made up to represent such a broad and diverse industry? I mean, travel, there are so many sectors it's not just the tour operators and wholesalers. Of course, we've got the travel agents and our advisors and then we've also got other sectors like aviation and many others, media even. How is CATO specifically made up?


Brett: I think, man, that's a really good question because within our sector that we have within the travel industry, we've got retail travel agents, tour operators and wholesalers. We've got inbound operators. We've got airlines, we've got hotels, we've got cruise lines. Absolutely. So CATO is to tour operators and wholesalers what after is to travel agents were clear as to cruise lines, you know, the airlines, you know, loosely work under their own arrangements. And I'm not going to profess to know too much about the airlines because I've never been never worked in the airspace, and they are a world and to themselves. I say that in the nicest possible way.



Ros: I've got no idea either, don't worry.

Brett: Because we kind of need each other. And that's a cold hard reality, we need airlines to leave Australia to go on holidays. And the airlines need us to, you know, to, to encourage people to buy tickets to go places. Now there's some bodies that work together to represent down the airspace as there is accommodation, hotels and accommodation. That's all based here in Australia. So many interestingly, you know, and I know through COVID, there was some calls for you know, a peak body to represent everything, but fundamentally, within the space of travel and tourism, from a retailer to a tour operator to a wholesaler to a cruise line to a hotel, to an airline, to an NBN operator, fundamentally, we're all very different structures, and government understand that. And so they want to hear from the different sectors, they don't actually want to hear from one body purporting to be representative of the whole industry, because they can't, because then we're all different structures, we all have different needs. 


You know, a good example was through COVID, the cruise industry, and many people know, I ran clear for 10 years and had a fabulous time there, and I have all the respect in the world for what they've done and what they do, and where they're at. And, their message was really around access to ports. And then it was primarily a state based issue. And I think they did a great job there helping the states to understand all of the things that they were putting in place, all the measures that were put in place to ensure crews came back strongly from COVID. And that was always going to benefit the entire industry. So if people have got confidence in local cruising, particularly, that's gonna help the rest of the industry. Our needs as tour operators and wholesalers. 


Ultimately, we are the key to unlocking these future travel credits that were locked up, because we're the ones that have the relationships with the destination management companies and suppliers overseas. In typically a consumer that books through a retailer who books through a CATO member, the consumer often often doesn't know who it is, they're actually traveling with overseas, the retailer wants to pass if money on to the tour operator or wholesaler doesn't necessarily know, well, where's the money going in terms of DMC and so the relationship between the tour operator and the DMC was was really critical. And so therefore, our message to the government was, here's a sector that's nice support through COVID, to ensure that  we estimated around $5 billion dollars of future travel credits at the start of COVID. And those funds needed to be protected. And so the businesses that were the key to unlocking those funds needed to be supported. If they weren't, that had a flow on effect, or domino effect onto our retail travel agent distribution, and ultimately, to the consumer. And, you know, what we didn't want to see was consumers losing millions and millions of dollars. And ultimately, the, I mean, our simple message to the government was, “hey, these are your constituents, these are the people that are going to vote that are going to be voting for you at the next election. You need to protect us.” So as our travel partners are supported, and ultimately the consumers' funds are as safe as they possibly can be. And that was the position that we took.

Ros: Yeah, I think that definitely comes back to the whole relationship conversation as well. Because as a Travel Advisor, I can't be in contact with everybody all over the world, right down to as you say, the DMCs or the people that are on the ground in a destination. I don't know who's running the tea plantation, or I don't know who owns specific guest houses in destinations. My role is very diverse and broad because I am promoting, and that's who all of our listeners are, you know, they're promoting different things. We're all different in what we do. But I think that that relationship between us and also tour operators is crucial because it has such a flow on effect.


Brett: Yeah, absolutely. Absolutely. It does. And I think you know, when you're looking at the whole ecosystem, I mean, It's kind of evolved this way over many, many, many years. And it works. And when we looked at where we were at, and again, I'd use COVID, as a great learning exercise for a lot of people was there was an absolute mishmash of booking terms and conditions in place. 


Now, there's two, just to be clear on that there's two sets of booking terms and conditions that would sit in a typical transaction. But the booking terms and conditions that a retail travel agent would have, where they are acting as an agent would be based on, this is the service that I'm going to provide you as my customer. Whereas the booking terms and conditions that a tour operator or wholesaler cater member would have the booking terms and conditions under which the service is going to be delivered once you're on your trip. And at that point, under Australian Consumer Law, we're a travel consumer booked through a travel agent, through an Australian based tour, a pro tour operator or wholesaler, they then carry the liability. That's the CATO member here, takes care of the liability for the delivery of that product. Now, again, using COVID, as a great example, when a CATO member offered a future travel credit to a travel agent to pass on to their consumer, they then were putting themselves in a position where they were carrying the liability for the delivery of that credit, regardless of whether the DMC or suppliers that they had in place, survived or not. If the money was in Europe, for example, and the Australian tour operator had provided a future travel credit, they were liable for the delivery of that. And that was a really key message to aid to help our members understand that be if there was any way you could get money back and refund less any administrative costs or unrecoverable costs of which there was, in many cases, get the money back to the consumer, if you can, you don't really want to be carrying that liability on your balance sheet for any prolonged period of time. So the sooner you get it off your balance sheet, the better you're going to be. And that's I guess that's part of our role and helping our members to understand are there law and liability and be what is best practice in terms of dealing with things like that.


Ros: Yeah. So just on that liability. I mean, this is really important. And I want everybody to hear the liability side of things like I know, for myself, I just felt like the weight of the world was on my shoulders that I really wanted to deliver experiences to clients. And I felt that there were so many moving parts to be able to hold those travel credits and then deliver that experience. And I know that it's not just me, and there were the tour operators and wholesalers also involved in that to feel that pressure and hearing you say that there was over 5 billion did you say $5 billion billion, billion dollars worth of travel credits? I mean, do you know where we're at? I mean, Australia has been open for over 12 months now. But do you know where we're currently sitting out with how many credits are still at it?

Brett:  Actual dollar figures, no.


Ros: Which way to get everybody to travel as fast as we possibly can trust me.


Brett: Exactly. And there are a lot of people traveling this year on those credits. Yeah. So they're being used up as quickly as possible. And you know, there are still people that are a little bit uncomfortable about traveling. There's also, we've struggled probably from the latter part of last year when things really started to open up with affordable air capacity. And that's been a big issue for all of us, you know, for consumers, for retailers, and for tour operators. Affordable air capacity, it's starting to ease up now and we're seeing that and that was always going to be the case about now when we when we started to see a little bit more capacity coming through from Asia and that's been good but there's obviously there's people that are that are still a little bit reluctant to travel for whatever reason and you know where they've got a credit for a trip but then all of a sudden they're faced with paying twice as much for an airfare is what they expected they were going to have to pay you know our message again to our members is be reasonable and you know if you're able to be flexible with your terms and and ensure that those people ultimately do travel on the trip that they originally booked then then do that. 

Ros: There’s no one hard and fast rule but there's no there isn't. There isn't and the conversation I remember you and I having back in October at the Australian travel agents COOP Conference that I spoke at you and I just catching up, there was a real. I mean, it was a real eye opener, but also a really good opportunity for me to understand where you see things happening in the future. And you and I had that conversation around airline availability, and hopefully price is coming down and where you saw what was happening from your perspective, that really helped me as well. And I think it helped me in a way that I was able just to relax a little bit and go, You know what, it's going to be okay, that's carrying all of this, but it's going to be okay, give it another six months, and we will start to see things change again. And that was certainly the message that I was then sharing. But I just wanted to say thank you to you for that specific conversation that you and I had, because I don't think that we were talking enough in that space. And I know, as a travel agent, there were times that I felt as though I was out on my own to say, I don't know what's happening, I don't understand what's happening from a tour operator perspective and where they're going in the future. Where can we just make this all work a little bit better, or have that conversation flowing a little bit smoother. And that's where you and I were then talking about even travel advisors who were running groups, or that had put together an experience for their clients. And this is where I see the lines getting blurred a little bit where a travel agent may be looking at putting together a certain experience. And there are two different camps. 


There's one where, you know, the travel agent will go directly to a tour operator and wholesaler who's a member and they're like, yep, cool, let's put this on. And we'll do this together. And then there are other advisors who either may be more experienced, or may just not even understand the ecosystem, who are then going directly to dam seas. So we're talking about the supply chain here and how everything fits together, but then going directly to country areas. So from a CATO perspective, how can travel advisors and travel professionals actually work with certain operators? Like I know, for me, I'm working with direct people in the country because of the large groups that I put on. So how could that potentially be affecting my role as a travel agent or a Travel Advisor? By having those relationships and working directly with suppliers on the ground? Is that putting me in a really murky or blurred position? And how can I overcome that particularly, you know, by even being a member of CATO to understand my roles and responsibilities?

Brett: Yeah, there are so many variables, Ros, and, you know, again, our learnings from COVID, in working with the ACCC particularly, there was no hard and fast rule that they could put in place to say this is what you must do. What you or I decide to do for our holiday each year is going to be very different to our next door neighbor, to our work colleagues, to the people down the road. There is no itinerary, really, that is identical to the next one. So it's very difficult to put a hard and fast rule in place. But this very topic is, I guess, very dear to my heart because our role is to help business. It's not to put roadblocks in the way, it's there to help and guide and make sure that Australian businesses are doing the right thing by Australian consumers. That's ultimately what we're here to do. So the typical transaction through our ecosystem would be consumer books through retail travel agent books through an Australian based tour or product or wholesaler books through DMC who handles all the arrangements on the ground with suppliers. Yeah. One of the things I learned many years ago in running CLIA, we had many, people will know this. We had an annual lastest conference and I know CLIA still runs their masters event these days. And one of the key things that we were teaching people all those years ago, as retailers looking to understand the cruise industry better, it really was not about teaching people about different cruise ships and all of the different unique selling features of each of the different brands. It was how do I sell? How do I sell cruises better? And as cruise became a more, I guess, mainstream type of holiday it was identifying what are the different niche options or opportunities available within that travel agents could exploit so the whole masters conference was about becoming a better salesperson. And when I look at that, then across with where we're at running CATO, it's where it's no different. And the message to the retail travel agent is exactly the same. You are a retailer. Most people become retail travel agents for one primary reason. That's because they love people, a lot of us will say because they love travel. Well, no, I would say I love people. And now if you're not a people person, you're going to really struggle as a retailer.


Ros: My husband would not become a travel agent, but he says it himself. Yeah, definitely. You need to be able to work with people. If you don't like people, then you're not going to succeed in the industry.


Brett: Absolutely. Yeah. So therefore, I would say, and this is my personal opinion, if you're good, there are a lot of good retailers in this market. And that's what you are good at is selling and dealing with the consumer. Retailers are a really important distribution channel for CATO members being to operators and wholesalers. But ultimately, the role of a tour operator or wholesaler, they are the businesses that  I would say take the risk to invest in and develop product that is then distributed throughout this market and internationally, for that matter. But that initial investment in the development of product could be two, three, even five years in advance of when the retailer actually sells the product. So not too different to the building industry where, you know, a developer might buy a block of land, and bank it for a while until the market starts to take off. And then they'll put some council plans in they'll and they'll to, you know, to build a you know, a unit development for example. 


Ultimately, the real estate agent sells the product and makes a commission, which is settled upon the sale. And I often hear people talking about, I've done my job, I've made the booking, I deserve my commission. The reality is, no one earns their money, whether you're a retailer, or a tour operator, until the people have traveled and best business practice is when the people get back and everything's fine, then you can recognize the revenue. That would be how I would run a business. If I was a tour operator or a retailer. When the people have got back, everything's fine, they've had a great time. No one wants a refund for anything that may or may not have happened. That's when you are safe to recognize that revenue. That's when your job is done. Your job is not done when you pay the deposit 12 months before the trip starts.


Ros: Absolutely. I 100% agree with that.


Brett: When a travel agent starts to then consider, “I think I can get a better deal with a DMC or going direct to a supplier”. Here's where it gets a little bit murky because someone has to be the principal and someone has to be the agent. So if the consumer is booking through a retail travel agent in Australia, who then goes off to a DMC to organize a, let's say a two week tour of Egypt. Yep. Just as an example. That the principle has to be either the agent here in Australia, or the DMC in Egypt. If the agent specifically says I'm an agent for this DMC who was our tour operator, then the booking terms and conditions for the delivery of the tour, sit between the tour operator who's in Egypt, and the Australian consumer, not between the Australian consumer and the Australian travel agents. So they're sitting here as an agent, that booking Terms and Conditions sit between the Australian consumer and the Egyptian tour operator, if there is a problem, and so I'll just preface this by saying, therefore the Australian consumer is traveling under Egyptian law. Yeah, if there is any sort of a problem and worst case scenario, you know, someone dies on a trip, there's going to be litigation when a half decent lawyer worth their salt looks at the structure here and says, “Right. I've got to sue somebody under a legal case”, like they're looking for some sort of a settlement. They will get as many people involved as they can. One will be the agent to crack at the tour operators in Egypt. That's going to be difficult. I don't have a lawyer. Not me personally, but you know, I'm speaking as if I'm the lawyer. I don't have the right to operate in Egypt. 


This is going to get really expensive. It's going to get really messy. We'll just sue the agent here in Austria. because they didn't declare that the tour was being run under booking terms and conditions under Egyptian law in this example. I'd also question if that was the case, as does the agent realize and I know that most agents realize they've got to give the booking terms and conditions of each of their suppliers to their customer, absolutely. But that same case happens when you're dealing with, you know, in this example, the Egyptian tour operator, so, if the Australian consumer, then all of a sudden realizes, well hang on a second, so I'm traveling with an Egyptian tour operator under Egyptian law, if something goes wrong, what I don't have a leg to stand on, it's going to be really difficult. 

So therefore, the message is either book it through an Australian based tour operator or wholesale let them they have the contracts, and, and and the insurances in place to deal with the DMC, who would have been the tour operator in this case, but under Australian Consumer Law, they then become the tour operator, and they carry the liability, and they have the insurance for that. That just eliminates any sort of risk that the travel agent can potentially expose themselves to. 


So now in saying all of that, there's nothing illegal about a travel agent booking directly with a DMC just do it properly, and do it properly if either you're an agent, or you're a principal slash tour operator. And if you are putting yourself in a position where you are packaging up multiple components and selling it at a single package price to a consumer, you have potentially inadvertently turned yourself into a principle or tour operator, under Australian Consumer Law, at that point, you then are liable for the delivery of that product, not the tour operator in Egypt. So if someone dies on that trip, you will get sued. Do you have the right insurance in place to deal with that? And you know, what that insurance is, it's going to vary depending on who you are, where you're going, how you're delivering the product. And that's a conversation for individual agents to have with a reputable insurance broker that specializes in travel, and there's a couple of very good ones in this market, as most of us would know. You know, I would, I would advise my, my advice, my guidance would be talk to someone who understands travel, don't you know, your typical insurance broker.

Ros: They don’t understand it. I’ve tried that. I've been there, they don't understand it. Go to a specialist. And they are, I mean, some of those specialists are also part of the CATO, pro, they're members, they're people that you trust and rely on as well. And that would be exactly the same for an international industry, body go to the professionals. Now in saying that you have tour operators, within these associations as well that deal directly with consumers. So they are then considered same as us as travel advisors, they're then considered the principal. They state licenses and legalities and insurances. They have all of that in place, right? 

Brett: Yeah. That's mandatory, as far as membership of CATO goes, they have to have that in place. And so interestingly, if a travel agent is dealing directly with a DMC or suppliers, and potentially turning themselves unwittingly into a tour operator, whilst they think they're a retailer, they've become a tour operator, if a tour operator deals directly with a consumer, that doesn't make them a travel agent, they're still a tour operator that's still packaged the product. So the minute you package the product, and there's multiple components involved, and you're selling at a single price, that's when you become the principal. And so therefore, for a retailer, that's where and the differentiation I made before, between with booking terms and conditions, the booking terms and conditions, at that point go from being this is the service I'm going to provide you as part of the booking process. And this is when all your payments are due, etc. All of a sudden, now you are a liability for the delivery of that product, that ultimately, yes, you've booked it through different varying different suppliers. But you still carry that liability here in Australia under Australian Consumer Law. And that's really important to understand. 

And again, I'm not I'm not saying there is nothing illegal about it's perfectly fine. And a lot of very good retail agents in Australia, very experienced, I know, work this way and many of them potentially would have the right insurances in place. The right booking terms and conditions in place. Fantastic. I'd even say within the CATO membership. A lot of our men buyers started as retail travel agents that found a niche, funnily enough, what we were just talking about before, and turned themselves into a tour operator. And that's what they do. And so they've become CATO members. And I'll just put a shout out there for probably the most obvious one within our membership is our Chairman, Dennis Bunning. Running to us, started as a retail travel agent, they became a specialist in Egypt, particularly seeing as I'm giving Egypt a bit of a rap at the moment. But that was the thing that became a tour operator. And that's stemmed from being a retailer and then finding a niche and obviously expanded from that.

Ros: So that’s a really unique position as well. I mean, let's just talk about Bunnik for a second, that they also deal directly with the public, but they also deal with travel agents, so they can sell their packages to a travel agent, who then deals directly with consumers. So they sit in a very unique position. And this is definitely where I wanted to go with this conversation is because there are travel advisors out there, who unwittingly or unknowingly are going through this process and dealing direct in Egypt, like let's just continue that conversation. 


So they're dealing directly with Egypt, and may not understand that there is this process or disconnect between what they're actually telling the consumer and their client, and also what they're delivering over there or the relationship that they have, they may not understand. And there are those key components missing with insurance with legalities with having the right terms and conditions in place. So as an industry body, where's the best place? So if a Travel Advisor is currently dealing with that, and it's not everyone, and I'm not even saying that it is, but there may be a few people that are currently playing in that space? Where would you suggest? Or how would you suggest that we get involved, and we actually get all of these things in place. So from your perspective, as CATO and education perspective.


Brett: So I would say we're not going to purport to be a body that represents travel agents, a good body called the Australian Federation of Travel Agents, that has been doing that for many, many, many years. And do a great job at it.

Ros: But if somebody is playing in this merger space, and this, blurring the lines,

Brett: Yeah, if you're, if you're in that space, come and talk to us, and we will help you to understand where the line in the sand is between agent and principal, we will provide the guidance as to who are the experts that you should be talking to around insurance and booking terms and conditions particularly, and help you on your way. And if that's especially when applying a lot of independent agents particularly have you know, as their own identity and something they often trade under a different name as their little group tour business. And that's fine, then, you know, those organizations, more than welcome to join CATO, if they're, if they are trading as a bonafide tour operator.

Ros: That's the point like I know for myself, I am a member of AFTA and CLIA, because I play in those spaces. And I am a Travel Advisor. But also I know that there is that blurred lines that you need to be a part of the association and understand the legalities of what you actually do so that you can do it correctly.

Brett: Yeah, so there's a couple of things out there. So just going back to the COVID for a moment, we really and I mentioned this before there was a real mishmash of booking terms and conditions out there. And I know there'll be someone listening to this podcast that is guilty of copy and paste of someone else's booking terms and conditions because they think they're reputable operator. That doesn't mean what one company does to the next is going to be exactly the same. Now what we did was we worked with a travel law specialist right at the onset of COVID at the behest of the ACCC and with their blessing, we created what we define now as our industry standard booking terms and conditions that are specific for tour operators and wholesalers. So the vast majority of CATO members are using those standard terms and conditions. But within that every business is a little bit different. So our membership, you know, it's a very broad church and stemming from let's say the travel corporation which is probably the largest privately owned travel business in the world, right down to you know small mum and dad. Businesses that specialize in a particular destination or a particular style of travel, the booking terms and conditions the core the booking terms and conditions between you know what the travel Corporation do right down to the individual, Mum and Dad business are pretty much the same. But there are going to be some variances. And that's where the lawyers, the specialist lawyers, will help and guide the business to ensure that they have the right book in terms of conditions that are tight and will protect them in times of crisis. And it's very easy to say ah, she'll be right, nothing's going to happen, stuff happens. And people get caught out. And, you know, when you're building a business, the last thing you want to do after being in business for X number of years is all of a sudden be exposed to potentially losing your livelihood and your house. I mean, the impact on your family, if you've just not set things up correctly, you know, potentially could be insurmountable, depending on what sort of life stage you're at. So it's really important. 


And one other thing that you mentioned earlier, Ros about agents, escorting groups. Now, if again, there's two kinds of potential scenarios here, if an agent is working with a larger tour operator, and I know a lot of our bigger members have a lot of work in the group space. In fact, all of our members do a lot of work in the group space. If an agent is putting together some sort of affinity group, they've, you know, they've all got an interest in, I don't know, let's say we'll keep talking about Egypt and some sort of archaeological interest.

Ros: It's a hard word, I get it. 

Brett: So you've got, let's say, you've got 20 people, that's their thing. The agents put that group together, that's an affinity group, that it's a group of like minded people. And if they booked that through, you know, an Australian tour operator or a wholesaler, there's, they are the agent, and there's no drama for them to go along and escort the trip. Totally no problem. If that agent put together a group and booked it with a DMC, and then I, the booking terms and conditions that we talked about before. But also then, in terms of insurance, they need to have a tour operator's liability insurance, the minute you as a business owner, or one of your staff is escorting a trip, you need to have a tour operator's liability insurance policy in place that's really important. And again, that you need to talk to someone who really understands that space, within the insurance brokers world to make sure that you've got the right policy based on what you are doing. And it's a little bit different for everybody, depending on you know, where you're going and how you've got your business structured, or whether you're booking it through. 


But it's really important that you declare that because one thing again, you don't want to be in a position where, you know, you've escorted a group, and you're standing on the edge of a cliff. And so I come over here, there's a great little photo opportunity, and all of a sudden the cliff gives away and someone falls down and darts, okay, well, you are really badly exposed in a scenario like that. So again, I'm not telling people what they have to do, I'm just painting this picture to ensure that they're talking to the right people to get the right structure in place. Again, you know, we work in a totally deregulated environment, which is fantastic. And what we don't want to do is go back to a position where we're heavily regulated. Like other markets, particularly the UK, Europe, when things really go badly wrong, like a global pandemic, it doesn't work. And a lot of businesses in the UK and Europe became insolvent because of the regulations that they had to abide by. We survived here. And I think businesses that have survived through years of a global pandemic, a good, strong businesses that are going to come out of this in a really good way. So that's a very positive outcome for us.


Ros: Yeah, absolutely. I could continue to talk to you all day, Brett, because this is a topic that I think everybody needs to be aware of, and where we actually sit in the travel ecosystem. We spoke right at the beginning about all the different moving parts and who's involved where and all the different associations. So I appreciate you just sharing your knowledge and your expertise today on this particular topic, but also just sharing your experience throughout the last few years and how we can continue to work together and understand our position so that we can all come through and build much stronger businesses, which is always my goal as well. So there are two things that I just want to finish on here. The first thing is if somebody wants to get involved with the tour operator association, so CATO or any of the global associations, the best place to go is your website.

Brett: Cato.travel. Yes, I will get in touch. And we'll talk to you and happy to talk to anyone and it's not, there's no major obligation on I will talk to you and help you. And that's our role. Our role is, you know, we're not going to sit here and pretend that we're some sort of consumer watchdog we're not our role is to help the businesses, build their business and be credible Australian businesses that are delivering, I guess, an opportunity for Australians to travel safely around the world. That's paramount.


Ros: Absolutely. So that's in all the research, the education, the marketing, it's one thing that I love about CATO. And then the second thing is, I know that there is a conference, a very special conference coming up in May. So everybody will have the opportunity to be able to attend this. Do you need to be a CATO member to attend? And then the second thing is, this is the crisis risk and resilience conference, which is going to be held in Sydney. So Sydney, Australia, for anybody internationally on the 15th of May, are you able to share any details on that? And who can attend?

Brett: Yeah, absolutely. So this is the third crisis conference that we've delivered in the last, I'm going to say 10 years. This one is, I guess, particularly interesting, as we've come out of COVID. And there's an awful lot, there's been a lot of learnings from that period. But we don't necessarily want to just focus particularly on what happened through COVID. 


Ros: It’s moving forward, like we I think we've done that we've learned about the future. And we're on the same page, like let's build a solid and stronger future for everybody in the industry, because we want it to grow. And this is a conversation that I was having with Dean last week about growing the industry. We need to welcome new people in, how are we going to do that? So part of that is this session?


Brett: So our conference will focus on a number of different areas  around “Crisis, Rish and Resilience”. Obviously, we've got a number one, travel law specialist, who was Aaron Zanetti, from, who's one of our board members. He will be talking specifically about this topic that we've just been discussing around agent versus principal, and he'll be the guy that will be able to provide the formal advice as a lawyer, we will talk about insurance risk. We’ve got a couple of keynotes that'll be quite interesting one, one of our members put together a documentary and I'm happy to share that that was Chimu Adventures, to me put together a documentary on some of the work that they did, at the onset of COVID with the support of the federal government and Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade, which is actually really moving. It's a great, it's a great documentary, and they're going to share it's like a bit of a case study, I guess, you know, what they went through and demonstrate to other entities that participate in our industry, that crisis is real, it happens and you've got to be prepared for it. 


We've got a cybersecurity expert coming in, who will talk about cybersecurity, funnily enough. This particular individual is an absolute guru in this space. And we'll provide some real life examples of things that we'll laugh at thinking how the heck could someone do something like that, but it happens and they do. They do some interesting things. And they'll talk about you know, your responsibilities as far as you know, privacy and the like, with the data that you hold, as well. 


We've got a leadership, a crisis leadership expert, who'll be talking. We've got a panel session, which is we'll look at the different sectors within the CATO membership. So we've got a representative from FIT, from adventure, from students sector, and one of it escapes me, but it'll be in the program that I will have access to shortly. And looking at, okay, where are those sectors at today and projections over the next couple of years. And it's it's pretty exciting. 


There's a massive pent up demand for travel at the moment. And, you know, as we, as we start to see people, book and travel, as businesses, let's make sure we've got everything in place so we don't experience what we've experienced in the last few years and we're in a good place to keep moving forward. So the conference is in Sydney on Monday, the 15th of May, two full day conference. CATO members and non members are more than welcome to attend. And it's a full day conference and lunch and networking drinks afterwards, and we won't by the time this podcast goes to air I think we'll be able to announce a formal sponsor, which has some very excited about it. 


Ros: Don’t share it, yet. Just don’t


Brett: Yeah, I can't. So watch the space. Yes.


Ros: Thank you so much, Brett. I know that I will be there because this is a topic that I think all business owners need to be aware of and understanding what's actually going on in the industry, but also to help our businesses grow, which is always my main focal point for Travel Agent Achievers and all that we do here.


So Brett, I'll wrap up now and just want to say thank you so much for your time today. I really appreciate you being so open and honest and sharing the information that you have and what you've experienced over the last few years but also how we can work together and our different roles. So if for members who or listeners out there that are not sure about where they currently see it, please reach out to CATO or the industry body in your country and get clear about it. Because moving forward, I want your business to be super strong and understand exactly where you're going. Thank you so much, Brett. 


Brett: Thanks, Ros. Pleasure.