CATO News
All the latest news, updates and activity from the Council of Australian Tour Operators (CATO) 

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  • Sat, March 19, 2022 9:50 AM | Anonymous member (Administrator)
    • Federal Government’s decision to approve distribution of the remaining funds under the $258 million COVID-19 Consumer Travel Support Program very welcome 
    • Will support a decimated sector which won’t see revenue return before late 2022 
    • Support is vital for inbound and outbound market recovery 

    Australia’s travel and tourism businesses thank the Morrison Government and Federal Tourism Minister the Hon Dan Tehan for the decision to release the outstanding $75.5 million approved as part of the COVID-19 Consumer Travel Support Program.

    Peak Industry bodies the Australian Federation of Travel Agents (AFTA), Australian Tourism Export Council (ATEC), Cruise Line International Association (CLIA) and Council of Australian Tour Operators (CATO) applaud the decision which will provide much needed support for travel professionals and businesses across Australia supporting outbound and inbound tourism.

    The Facts

    • Pre-COVID, 70% of all international bookings in Australia were made through travel agents – this is on the rise with 16% of all new enquiries coming from those using a travel professional for the first time 
    • Australia’s travel industry has had revenue falls of 90%+ since the imposition of the international travel ban more than 700 days ago, resulting in15,000 professional jobs, a third of the sector, being lost 
    • Up to $6 billion worth of outbound credits for COVID-impacted travel in the system which we are managing on behalf of Australians 
    • 52% of bookings are reusing existing credits from COVID-impacted travel 
    • On average 51% of all travel businesses’ work is assisting clients using these credits Inbound Tour Operators have had no business for 2 years and now need to invest heavily to convert international booking enquiries, as well as promote Australia to international travellers 
    • Bookings finalised today will not convert to revenue for ITO businesses until late this year leaving a significant cash-flow gap in the meantime 

    Quotes attributable to AFTA CEO Dean Long

    “It is critically important that these funds are distributed quickly to those eligible businesses and we believe the revised eligibility framework will facilitate that. Australians travelling are relying on their travel professionals now more than ever and this financial support is needed to start the process of rebuilding including replacing the 15,000 highly skilled people lost across Australia due to the financial devastation of COVID-restrictions and travel bans.” 

    “Securing support for our people and the wider sector has been an intense campaign which AFTA has invested in over every single day of the past two years. We are very grateful for the ongoing support of Federal Tourism Minister the Hon Dan Tehan and we continue to work closely with the Morrison Government on the recovery of Australia’s Travel Sector.”

    “We thank the Minister for taking up our concerns about the initial eligibility framework and implementation of the COVID-19 Consumer Travel Support Program and we trust that these issues will not be repeated with the distribution of the remaining $75 million.”

    “We also thank Pat Conaghan, Federal Member for Cowper for his sustained effort in championing the need for ongoing support for the Travel Sector along with the many Members of Parliament who have met with and continue to meet with their local travel professionals.”

    Quotes from ATEC Managing Director Peter Shelley

    “While international visitors are now free to come to Australia, our members estimate the gap between borders re-opening and the point at which they are likely to see any meaningful business will be 6-12 months,” ATEC Managing Director Peter Shelley said. “This additional funding will help our ITO’s get over that last hurdle and back into the market providing support in re-tooling these businesses with the experienced staff and booking conversion activity that will be required to rebuild Australia as a destination. We are pleased the Government has recognised the unique needs of these segments of the tourism industry and is willing to support, in particular, the future success of our tourism export businesses.”

    Quotes attributable to CATO Managing Director Brett Jardine

    “We would like to acknowledge and thank Federal Tourism Minister the Hon Dan Tehan and the Morrison Government for addressing our urgent need for support and provide critical funding to our sector businesses and the wider industry during this time.”

    “This will continue to be a challenging 6-12 months ahead for our sector as revenues are not realised until travel takes place, and businesses will be required to honour their commitment to deliver on travel credits. With this funding support, businesses can now start to invest as they rebuild, re-employ and retain staff in the industry, and put in place processes to ensure Australians are able to travel safely and with confidence.”

    “Our key focus as an Association during the past two years has been to continually advocate for the much-needed support for our members, to all levels of Government. As a wider industry our close collaboration with AFTA, CLIA, and ATEC has elevated and addressed the concerns of the industry further to Government and the Media.”

    Quotes attributable to CLIA Managing Director Joel Katz

    “Support for travel agents and other travel industry professionals is critical right now as we work to achieve a recovery in Australia’s travel sector. This latest initiative will provide welcome benefit to thousands of Australian businesses and individuals – many of whom will play a vital role in reviving Australia’s cruise economy and bringing back billions of dollars in economic opportunities for communities around Australia’s coasts.”

    “As cruise lines work towards a careful resumption in Australia, it’s important to recognise the key role played by travel agents and other local industry suppo


  • Mon, February 07, 2022 12:00 PM | Anonymous member (Administrator)

    A new Australian peak body, the Student Educational Travel Organisation (SETO), has been established under the umbrella of the Council of Australian Tour Operators (CATO). The newly established not for profit company will lead the educational travel sector in areas of governance, advocacy, and education with a vision to accelerate education outside of the classroom, ensuring every student can access and benefit from experiential learning opportunities achieved through travel.

    SETO has been set up to function as a conduit between the travel and education sectors incorporating specialist educational travel tour operators, suppliers, teachers, schools, and universities.

    Brett Jardine, CATO and SETO Managing Director said, “The formation of SETO was something that CATO had been planning over the past two years. We acknowledged there was a need in the market for specialisation in the growing educational travel sector. COVID has allowed us the time to appoint a SETO board of directors that reflects the niche market of educational travel and they have worked tirelessly on bringing the idea to fruition. We are delighted to unveil the new Australian peak body to provide an important voice to this market at this crucial time as borders begin to open.”

    There are 10,600 schools and universities in Australia, with over five million students, 89% of these students are under 18 years of age and excited to learn through travel exploration. Education and exploration outside the classroom, covers such programs as study tours, sports tours, ski trips, music and performance tours, language immersion trips, expeditions, and service trips, all forming an essential part of student life.

    Jardine noted, “SETO was the inspiration of CATO board member David Walker who has been appointed as the inaugural Chairman. SETO will fill a gap in the industry, with the idea gaining momentum through the collaboration of existing CATO members specialising in the field of education travel. Anne-Marie Mitchell of GET Education Tours, Jamie Wansey of Student Horizons, Liz Anderson of Sundowners Overland and Pete Fletcher of World Challenge, all providing extensive input in the initial stages with each of their respective businesses recognised as founding members.

    Walker who is also Managing Director of Educational Adventures said, “Learning outside the classroom is an essential part of student development as they move towards their future career in the real world. SETO is committed to ensuring these student opportunities continue to grow, in a safe and sustainable travel environment supported by an elevated level of quality assurance.

    “For teachers who organise student school trips, the happiness and wellbeing of the student provides the teacher with their greatest reward and knowledge that the student is broadening their horizons, becoming more culturally aware and experiencing a positive impact on their personal development,” he said.

    Membership of SETO is a hallmark of competence and integrity for student travel tour operators and suppliers of products and/or services for the Australian travel education sector. SETO certified members are specialists who work in conjunction with education departments and schools to make the student's journey a more meaningful and safer experience.

    Membership applications are now open for Tour Operator/Wholesaler Membership, Dual SETO/CATO Membership and Associate Membership at www.seto.net.au 

  • Mon, November 08, 2021 12:37 PM | Anonymous member (Administrator)

    The Council of Australian Tour Operators (CATO) has today announced an exciting partnership with Bonailie and One Earth, as part of its mandate to further support its members through education, as the industry begins to prepare for recovery, following international border openings.

    This partnership will provide CATO members with access to a purpose-led, community platform, which has a significant focus on educational programs and content. This program will greatly assist members to shift businesses and mindsets to a 21st century model and approach.

    It is designed to provide support to all member businesses which have been under enormous pressure during the pandemic, through loss of income and reduction in staff. The next six months will continue to be incredibly challenging, with reduced staff and inexperienced new employees, as customers utilise travel credits, and travel demand increases exponentially, following the long international hiatus.

    Brett Jardine, Managing Director of CATO said, “During the last 12 months, CATO has prioritised its focus and time on its Advocacy Pillar to drive our lobbying efforts for the land-supply sector due to the necessity arising from the impact of the global pandemic. Whilst these efforts will continue, we recognise the need to provide additional value to our members, and so we plan to introduce new concepts to our Education Pillar to support the rebuild and recovery of our industry”.

    “CATO has taken time to reflect during the pandemic on the current operations of the land supply sector and as a result we have assessed the future proofing requirements for the sector, to ensure sustainability whilst protecting customers. As part of that overarching strategy, we have implemented several new initiatives, and we aim to further support our members, through educational tools tailored for business owners and managers to reflect new business models and adapt to a constantly changing environment,” said Jardine.

    Julie King, Founder & CEO of Bonailie said, “We are delighted to be partnering with CATO to support its members in this new phase of recovery. The educational opportunities which will be provided as part of the partnership with One Earth, through the ‘Find Your Formula, Audit Your Business for Growth’ Program, will assist members to review gaps in their businesses and make changes across Brand, Product, Channels and Sales. This will provide knowledge on how to “Pull” customers in by leading with “Purpose” rather than push selling, to allow members to scale and grow”.

    “CATO members will also have access to a dedicated virtual ‘Classroom’ to collaborate together, a community group to engage together, access to the annual Unite on Purpose Summit (opened by the United Nations), Global Research, Masterclasses, Webinars and Podcasts from both Bonailie and One Earth,” said King.

    Jardine said, “I have participated in this program myself and believe it will allow members to think differently about preparing for the growth that the economic trends confirm is ahead”.

    As part of Bonailie’s contribution to the industry, for every CATO member signed on to the platform, Bonailie will donate a Bonailie Engage Subscription to an individual or business in need of assistance.

    For more information on CATO go to cato.travel and for more information on Bonailie go to Bonailie.world.

  • Wed, October 13, 2021 3:47 PM | Anonymous member (Administrator)

    CATO has ramped up its extensive discussions with the Federal Government over the last month with meetings with the Prime Minister, Scott Morrison’s Office and Minister for Tourism, Dan Tehan’s Office in order to keep pressure on Government, ahead of the national approach to opening up borders.

    CATO Managing Director, Brett Jardine said, “Despite vaccine rates rapidly increasing, signifying the resumption of international travel within sight – we are not out of the woods yet.  The travel industry needs financial support to enable its recovery.  For many, a lack of income over the last two years combined with employee reduction is a difficult starting point for the anticipated pent up travel demand and will place a lot of pressure on businesses, at a time when they need to re-invest”. 

    CATO has called for continued government financial support to enable sector recovery, combined with a co-ordinated national approach to opening up and staying open once Australia reaches 80% vaccination rate.  Jardine said, “CATO’s efforts in supporting the land-supply sector will deliver direct benefit to its travel agent distribution partners”.

    “The industry needs to be able to act with confidence in the national approach with clear and transparent communication. It will struggle to survive if it invests in opening, only to have borders shut again.  Consumer confidence is crucial to our recovery and the government plays a critical role in the unification of our states around a commitment to opening and allowing our industry to rebuild,” said Jardine.  

    CATO supports the Federal Government vaccination program and subsequent easing of border restrictions and has been vocal on the importance of home quarantine.  CATO Chair, Dennis Bunnik recently appeared on the ABC’s 7.30 Report outlining home quarantine as a solution to one of the ongoing current barriers to travel.

    Jardine confirmed that CATO’s continues to send a strong message to government around the structure of the industry.  “Whilst borders may open in the coming months, travel businesses are unable to recognise revenue until travel has been undertaken. It is crucial that our sector can invest now to prepare their businesses for recovery, to re-start operations, re-employ and train staff, put in place processes to ensure safe travel and create new products and packages for Australians to be able to travel with confidence once travel resumes,” he said.

  • Fri, July 16, 2021 1:02 PM | Anonymous member (Administrator)

    CATO formally congratulates Dean Long as new CEO of AFTA and Katrina Barry, MD of The Travel Corporation’s Contiki and Trafalgar brands as new Director on the AFTA Board.

    Chairman of CATO, Dennis Bunnik said, “CATO extends our congratulations to both Dean and Katrina on their new roles. We look forward to collaborating with Dean and the AFTA board to drive industry recovery following the pandemic. 

    “CATO has had a great working relationship with Dean during his previous tenure at AFTA and continues to do so in his current capacity at Australia’s Accommodation Association.  We look forward to further strengthening this relationship to ensure a consistent industry approach to leading our industry out of this pandemic stronger and more sustainable than before”.

  • Wed, July 07, 2021 8:07 AM | Anonymous member (Administrator)

    While progress was made last week with Scott Morrison announcing a four-stage COVID Exit Plan, the Council of Australian Tour Operators (CATO) urgently calls for hard timelines and transparency around the trigger points for each phase of the plan, to allow the industry to protect their businesses until international borders open.

    Dennis Bunnik, Chairman of CATO said, “What the Federal Government is not taking into consideration is that businesses in the travel industry cannot continue to borrow financially, in order to keep their doors open for an indiscriminate amount of time. We need more than a commitment to create a plan – we need dates and scientific numbers”.

    “The travel industry needs clear trigger points regarding vaccination levels for easing both domestic and international border restrictions. We need a simple and easy-to-access Vaccination Passport for non-restricted domestic travel – this can be used to incentivise vaccinations so that Australians can see the positive benefits of getting the jab. We also need approval of a 7-day home quarantine option for returning, fully-vaccinated international travellers”.

    There is a three-month lead time between the first AstraZeneca vaccination and the second. Bunnik highlighted the fact that there needs to be more public messaging about planning ahead for travel and not waiting till the borders open before deciding to be vaccinated, as this may prolong travel further for consumers (three months plus) particularly for the over 50s and 60s.

    Bunnik added, “The Government needs to protect the remaining high-skilled jobs in the travel sector through extending grant schemes and improving eligibility. In tandem, it needs to work with the travel industry to prepare for a return of international travel to avoid massive skills shortage and enable Australians to travel safely”.

    · Many companies are fully extended financially and need transparency on how much longer they need to subsist without an income, in order to determine whether they can afford to go deeper into debt.

    · Businesses need to know if a) they can afford to keep staff on until borders open and b) manage the work-load if travel resumes across domestic borders and international.

    · Travel companies need to start creating travel products – this takes time and investment

    Bunnik explained that it ultimately comes down to vaccinations needing to be more urgently available to the entire population and encouraged consumers who meet the criteria now to take up the opportunity to be vaccinated. “This will allow them the freedom to fly and reconnect with their family, loved ones, friends and or colleagues both domestically and internationally and to say goodbye to lockdowns and cancelled domestic travel,” he said.

  • Mon, June 28, 2021 3:37 PM | Anonymous member (Administrator)

    The Council of Australia Tour Operators (CATO) held their 2021 Annual General Meeting (AGM) on Thursday 24 June as the organisation sought member agreement on organizational reform and the exploration of new directions to support its members as part of a more sustainable travel industry.

    Brett Jardine, Managing Director, CATO said, “In times of adversity, opportunities arise. One positive outcome of COVID was the time our Board had to discuss, plan and develop solutions to arising issues.”

    CATO members voted unanimously to support a motion to change the associations structure from a statebased model to a federal-based model as a not-for-profit Company Limited by Guarantee. This will include a new constitution which will include a formal CATO Member Code of Conduct and CATO Member Advertising Code of Conduct.

    Jardine said, “Votes received were 100% supportive of the motion to change and evolution under a structure that better reflects CATO’s status as a national body and enable it to move forward with progressive initiatives. As part of these changes CATO will develop an external independent accreditation scheme, fitfor-purpose, for the land supply sector. CATO members were also updated on the status of investigations into the development of exclusive insurance products, aimed at developing greater agent support and consumer confidence when booking travel product with CATO members.”

    CATO’s proposed changes will engage with and encourage wider participation from all tour operators and wholesalers nationally with a view to seeking best practice and greater consistency across all participants. It will continue to collaborate closely with other industry bodies including AFTA, CLIA, ATEC and ACCI in areas of mutual benefit. CATO’s primary charter is to support its members and to create a more sustainable tourism industry, in this new era and post the COVID 19 pandemic.

    The CATO AGM also revealed that the growing industry body had recorded a surplus of $76,000 with a significant portion of excess funds being used to support members via discounted 2022 membership renewals.

    Jardine confirmed that membership retention for 2022 reached an impressive 94% with total member numbers increasing by 20% across all categories to a total of 180.

    Voting of Board Members was concluded, and Dennis Bunnik (Bunnik Travel Group) was re-elected as Chairman unopposed and will continue in this capacity for two years.

    The board members voted onto the board for the next term include Brett Mitchell (Intrepid Travel Group), Julie King (Julie King & Associates) and James O’Donnell (The Travel Corporation). Individuals that are currently mid-term on the CATO Board include - Vice Chair: Liz Anderson (Sundowners Overland), and Board Members: Lisa Pagotto (Crooked Compass); Brad McDonnell (Entire Travel Group); Peter Douglas (Globus Family of Brands); David Walker (Sno'n'Ski); Aaron Zoanetti (Pointon Partners).

    Bunnik said, “I look forward to working with the appointed Board across our four pillars in another challenging year ahead, in order to implement significant, positive and much needed changes to our industry.

    I would also like to acknowledge Martin Edwards (ex-Bench Africa) and Amanda McCann (Collette) who ended their term on the Board and thank them for their many years of contribution to CATO.” 

    Brett Jardine and Dennis Bunnik

  • Thu, June 24, 2021 10:02 AM | Anonymous member (Administrator)

    The Council of Australian Tour Operators (CATO) and TravelPay are partnering to launch a bank account supplier payments solution to provide secure EFT payments following the closure of the eNett EFT payment system.

    ‘TravelPay B2B in partnership with CATO’ will enable travel agents to make secure bank account payments to suppliers and wholesalers. In a move that closes a pending gap from the closure of the eNett EFT payment system, this launch provides service continuity for agents and suppliers.

    Brett Jardine, Managing Director, CATO said, “CATO is delighted to work together with TravelPay to quickly bring this solution to market. Our members and travel agents have enough to deal with in the current COVID environment, so we’re pleased to be able to remove the concerns they had about facilitating secure EFT payments.”

    TravelPay B2B will be launched alongside TravelPay’s popular consumer-to-agent payment solution that is utilised by over 1,000 travel agencies. TravelPay B2B is available to all agents and suppliers and will enable agents to easily process online bank account payments to suppliers with secure portals for agents and suppliers.

    Andrea Slark, CEO of Zenith Payments which owns TravelPay added, “Within hours of hearing of the impending closure, we were inundated by calls from suppliers and agents asking if we could help, so we are thrilled to be able to expand our services to make supplier payments easy, secure and cost effective. Our team is working hard to launch TravelPay B2B and we have received positive feedback about this, not just from our existing TravelPay agents, but also from other agents and suppliers who are keen to come onboard.”

    James O’Donnell, Finance Director at The Travel Corporation, added, “This is fantastic news for suppliers like us as we were concerned there would be a gap in the market. We are pleased that CATO and TravelPay could quickly work together to bring this much needed solution to the industry.”

    Suppliers and agents can now register their interest to use ‘TravelPay B2B in partnership with CATO’ on travelpay.com.au and the service will launch in August to ensure service continuity. Further details will be announced shortly.


  • Wed, February 17, 2021 1:41 PM | Deleted user
    • CATO Delegation Met in Canberra to Lobby for JobKeeper
    • Meeting with Minister for Trade, Tourism and Investment, Dan Tehan

    A CATO delegation consisting of CATO managing director Brett Jardine, Chairman Dennis Bunnik, and board member Brad McDonnell, were in Canberra on Tuesday 16 February as part of the travel industry’s ongoing lobbying effort to secure government financial support post JobKeeper.


    L to R - Brad McDonnell - CEO Entire Travel Group & CATO Board Member; Dennis Bunnik - CATO Chair; Minister Tehan; Brett Jardine - CATO Managing Director.

    The CATO delegation met with the Minister for Trade, Tourism and Investment, Dan Tehan, to explain the complex nature of the travel industry and the important role of the land supply sector within the travel ecosystem. The Minister was engaged and interested in learning more about the sector and the impacts of COVID.

    "We were able to explain the importance of protecting highly skilled jobs and their key to ensuring continued business operations, enabling the redemption of travel credits for consumers and allowing Australians to travel safely once borders reopen," said Jardine.

    Minister Tehan heard about CATO’s long standing relationship with DFAT and members’ role in helping to repatriate Australians during the height of the COVID crisis.

    CATO explained the impact of COVID on the financial and emotional wellbeing of members and the broader travel industry.

    "Whilst we understand the need to close borders, the travel industry has been the sacrificial lamb that has enabled our communities to remain largely COVID free and the wider economy to recover. Whilst the government continues to restrict our trade, it is vital that it provides support to enable us to survive. This support should include continued wage subsidies, grants to help cover overheads and Government backed loans (with delayed repayments) to bridge the cash-flow gap between now and when international travel actually recommences," said Jardine.

    CATO Board members Brad McDonnell and Dennis Bunnik were able to provide details of the direct impact of COVID and government border policies on their respective business, Entire Travel Group and Bunnik Tours. In response, Minister Tehan immediately arranged for the CATO delegation to meet with the Senior Economic Advisor for Federal Treasurer, Josh Frydenberg.

    During this meeting, and a further meeting with Austrade, CATO was able to delve into details on the support the industry will require post JobKeeper.

    Jardine said, "The Government has repeatedly stated that JobKeeper will finish as scheduled at the end of March. Whilst they understand the need for further travel industry support, they are yet to finalise any assistance packages. As such, the Minister for Trade, Tourism and Investment, Dan Tehan encouraged CATO and the entire travel industry to keep campaigning their local members on the impact of COVID and the ramifications of ending of JobKeeper to the tourism industry."

    The travel industry is showing a united front in Canberra this week with AFTA CEO Darren Rudd also in the capital to meet with political leaders. CATO Chair Dennis Bunnik briefed Rudd on the outcomes of the meetings with the two organisations working together to ensure aligned messaging.


  • Thu, February 04, 2021 11:17 AM | Deleted user
    • A pioneering Australian tour operator to South America, Tucan Travel commenced operating small group tours in 1987.
    • CATO acknowledges its decades-long contribution to the travel and tourism industry.

    CATO is devastated to hear that Tucan Travel has been placed into voluntary administration, and would like to acknowledge its 33-year contribution to the travel and tourism industry and travellers alike.

    CATO continues to lobby government for support to aid the recovery of Australia's tourism industry, and empathises with Tucan Travel's employees, consumers and suppliers who have been financially affected.

    We want to acknowledge the significant hardship the Australian Tourism Industry is currently facing—and has faced over the last year—as a result of the COVID-19 pandemic.

    Information on the Tucan Travel website currently states:

    On 2 February 2021, the Board of Directors of Tucan Travel Pty Ltd resolved to place the company in Voluntary Administration pursuant to Section 436A of the Corporations Act and appointed Mr Andrew Barnden of Rodgers Reidy (Sydney) as its Administrator.

    The Administrator will formally contact all known creditors advising of his appointment and the Voluntary Administration process, this will include the Australia and New Zealand customers of Tucan Travel Pty Ltd.

    In addition, as the company has ceased trading, any Australian or New Zealand customers who have paid for any travel with the company by way of Credit Card and/or PayPal are requested, in the first instance, to contact their Financial Institution/Bank (who issued the credit card) in an attempt to seek a chargeback/refund due to "the closure of the business as a result of the external administration of the company".

    If creditors of Tucan Travel Pty Ltd have any additional queries, then they are requested to contact Rodgers Reidy on the following:

    • Telephone: +61 (2) 9262 1944 - request to speak to either Mr Steven Jolly or Ms Celeste Cosenza.
    • Email: RRNSW@rodgersreidy.com.au

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