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

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  • Wed, June 20, 2018 6:51 PM | Anonymous member (Administrator)

    Bunnik Tours energetic CEO, Dennis Bunnik has been formally re-elected as CATO Chairman for a further term at the associations’ Annual General Meeting yesterday. 

    Bunnik has been instrumental in overseeing the transition of CATO from a fledgling networking group to a respectable voice for Tour Operators and Wholesalers. 

    Supporting the future direction of CATO under the relatively new leadership of Managing Director Brett Jardine, is an Executive Committee made up of a diverse group of suppliers including;

    Dennis Bunnik Bunnik Tours (Chairman)
    Martin Edwards Bench Africa (Vice-Chairman)
    Julie King Julie King & Associates
    David Walker ITC Pacific/Sno’n’Ski
    Anne-Marie Mitchell GET Educational Tours
    Matthew Cameron-Smith Trafalgar Tours
    Halina Kubica Greece & Mediterranean Travel
    Brett Mitchell (mid-term) Intrepid Travel Group
    Liz Anderson Sundowners Overland
    Justine Waddington Encounter Travel

  • Wed, June 20, 2018 5:32 PM | Anonymous member (Administrator)

    CATO founder and long-term General Manager, Peter Baily, received a fitting farewell at Sydney’s Establishment Hotel last night. Guests were treated to a number of humorous stories from Peter’s 50 years in the travel industry. 

    AFTA CEO Jayson Westbury praised Baily for his unwavering support of industry deregulation whilst former CATO Chairman, Michael Hay and Rod Eather acknowledged Baily’s unwavering belief in the land supply side of the industry during CATO’s formative years.

  • Wed, October 25, 2017 11:33 PM | Anonymous member (Administrator)

    Dubai is a city that must be seen to be believed. Record-breaking architecture such as the world’s tallest building, stands alongside traditional quarters like Bastakiya, while man-made islands jut out of the coastline and the edge of the city is home to rolling sand dunes. Over 200 nationalities call Dubai home, bringing with it a mix of cultures and cuisines, creating an energy in the city like no other.

    Only 44 years old, this cosmopolitan city has grown exponentially, with new hotels and attractions launching each year to cater for the growing number of visitors to the destination. 2016 has been a great year for growth and development, with the launch of four theme parks and Dubai Opera, as well as a range of hotels, making it a city for everyone.

    For Australian travellers, visiting Dubai, here is our must-do’s:

    Burj Khalifa

    Soaring at over 828 metres tall with more than 160 stories, Burj Khalifa is not only the world’s tallest building, but an engineering masterpiece of modern architecture. The structure dominates the skyline and a visit to Dubai without seeing the building, would not be complete. Visitors can take in the views across the desert city from the observation deck on Floor 125, or for those wanting a VIP experience, the At The Top SKY lounge is on floor 148, offering guests an outdoor deck and complimentary refreshments.

    Dubai Opera

    The UAE’s cultural scene took another step forward in August 2016 when Dubai Opera opened its doors with a sold-out performance by Plácido Domingo. The iconic dhow-shaped building of Dubai Opera is a masterpiece of contemporary design, and a stylish tribute to Dubai’s maritime history. Designed by architect Janus Rostock, Dubai Opera gives the exceptional ability to transform into three modes; from a theatre into a concert hall, and into a ‘flat floor’ mode becoming a banquet or event hall and will be host to a wide variety of performances and events including theatre, opera, ballet, orchestras, concerts, fashion shows, live entertainment, conferences, galleries and art exhibitions.

    IMG World of Adventures and Dubai Parks and Resorts

    For families visiting Dubai, the launch of four new theme parks in 2016 gives more choice to families of all ages. IMG Worlds of Adventure opened in August and will be home to five adventure zones including Marvel comics and Cartoon Network. The World’s largest indoor theme park has rides, movies, shows and a range of dining options.

    In Q4, Dubai Parks and Resorts opens its doors to the public, with the world’s first Bollywood Park, the region’s first Legoland and Motiongate – filled with attractions on themes like Hunger Games and the Smurfs. The Dubai Parks and Resorts complex will also have a central family-friendly hotel, for guests wanting to wake up to theme park views each day.

    Al Fahidi District (Bastakiya)

    Escape the skyscrapers of the city centre and travel back in time with a trip to Al Fahidi Historical Neighbourhood, also known as Bastakiya. This atmospheric area in Bur Dubai is one of the oldest heritage sites in the city, with a neighbourhood that dates back to the early 1900s. A tour of the area offers a beguiling glimpse into the Dubai of a bygone era including traditional wind towers, courtyards and maze of winding alleyways. You can learn about the culture and heritage of the region at Sheikh Mohammed Centre for Cultural Understanding and enjoy a traditional breakfast, or wander into some of the courtyard cafes that have made Bastakiya home, such as the Arabian Tea House (with over 100 teas to choose from), or XVA Café with its own art gallery and boutique hotel.

    Dubai Mall

    The largest shopping mall in the world and home to over 1,200 stores, Dubai Mall is an attraction in itself with its own aquarium and ice-rink among others. The mall has every brand you can think of, from high-street to high-end and dining outlets for all budgets. It is situated in downtown and should be combined with the Dubai Fountains, a water display that happens every evening, accompanied by a light show at Burj Khalifa.

    Dubai Desert

    A trip to the city emerging from the desert, is not complete without a visit to the desert. Visitors to Dubai can experience the desert on one of many desert safaris, taking in the landscape at sunset with camel rides, falconry displays, dune drives, traditional dinners and entertainment.


    With so many nationalities living in Dubai, it is a melting pot for cuisine in Dubai, whether it is cheap eats at Ravi’s, a long-time favourite with all travellers wanting great quality Pakistani food, or fine-dining in one of the many celebrity chef restaurants such as Marco Pierre White’s Wheelers of London.

  • Fri, September 15, 2017 6:06 PM | Anonymous member (Administrator)

    The Council of Australian Tour Operators inaugural Crisis Management Forum was a full day forum held in Sydney in March 2016 and attended by over 80 tour operators, wholesalers and travel agents. Attendees heard from a range of crisis management experts including the head of the DFAT crisis response team and the safety managers of Qantas and Sydney Airport.

    There was also a panel discussion of members that allowed attendees to learn from first hand experiences of CATO members in dealing with a variety of issues. The panel included Wildlife Safari md Trevor Fernandes, who was in Kenya during several events including post-election violence in 2007 and the Westgate Plaza shootings in 2013.

    Key take-outs included the importance of having a crisis management plan and clearly defined roles for key personnel; the importance of having a senior member of the operations team on the ground as soon as possible after an incident; and the importance of relying on contacts on the ground rather than just sensationalised media reports.

    From left: David Beirman of UTS; Rose Romeo from the Qantas Group Business Resilience department; CATO chairman Dennis Bunnik; and Kirsty McNeill, DFAT’s director of crisis management and contingency planning.

  • Fri, March 24, 2017 10:36 PM | Anonymous member (Administrator)

    President Trump’s controversial travel ban has made headlines around the world.

    Tourism is a lot like politics – when done well it can be an incredible force for good. When done poorly it can be very destructive. Luckily tourism is in a lot better state than politics at the moment.

    Recent trips to Tanzania and Egypt have allowed me to experience firsthand how tourism done correctly benefits both the visitor and the local community, and builds bridges between different cultures.

    In the small town of Mto Wa Mbu in Tanzania, the local women’s cooperative has established their own tourism business providing tours of the village. The tour starts with lunch at a local home – delicious local food cooked from fresh ingredients grown on the farm. Six different families have become involved so that the benefits are spread as wide as possible.

    After lunch we meandered through the village and surrounding farms led by local lady Katherine who explained the various crops and took us for a taste of locally brewed banana beer. What impressed me most about Katherine though is how she encouraged us to interact with the local children, but not to give them sweets or pens or any other gifts as they did not want to instil in them any sort of expectation which would lead to the kids asking tourists for gifts or money. The impact of tourism was being well managed.

    The second example took place in the Mohammed Ali Mosque in Cairo. It involved a group of Aussie travellers and a lively discussion on Islam. The discussion took place while we were all sitting on the floor of the most famous mosque in Cairo and was led by our Egyptologist, Abdul.

    There are a lot of misconceptions about Islam and Abdul understood this. Our conversation quickly moved from the basics to more complex issues such as women’s rights and religious freedom. Abdul encouraged us to ask any questions we liked and answered them openly and honestly. He also had a few questions of his own. We all learnt something and felt we had a greater level of understanding.

    Both these examples are small scale but they demonstrate what happens when we create connections between different people and cultures. This is the role of tourism – to make the world a smaller place and to build on our similarities and not our differences.

    Unfortunately the world of politics is taking us increasingly in a different direction, clearly demonstrated by the recent actions of President Trump. Travel bans don’t make the world a safer place. Instead they create divisions and a ‘them and us’ culture which makes discrimination easier and more acceptable. History tells us that this is not a good thing.

    Australians are some of the world’s most avid travellers and the Australian travel industry does a great job in making the world a smaller place.

    Over the coming years the politicians will continue to spread fear and doubt. As part of the worldwide travel industry I believe that it is our role to counteract this. Australians are some of the world’s most avid travellers and the Australian travel industry does a great job in making the world a smaller place. By continuing to travel and explore we will build bridges, not walls, and that’s a good thing.

    Dennis Bunnik is Chair, Council of Australian Tour Operators (CATO) and Managing Director of Bunnik Tours.

  • Tue, February 07, 2017 9:37 PM | Anonymous member (Administrator)

    A new concept in travel, Empowerment Tourism

    We have seen sustainable, eco and responsible tourism all become buzz words, but Simla Sooboodoo, founder of small group tour operator Hands on Journeys, aims to take that further with her new concept, Empowerment Tourism.

    The opportunity for travellers and tourists to take in the most famous attractions in a country whilst combining their visit with supporting a greater good is fast becoming a popular style of travel.

    Empowerment Tourism is about taking a community on a journey, showing them what is possible using the skills they already have, those that can be taught, and the opportunities which travellers can provide. At the end of that journey they should be able to support themselves and continue to grow with a sense of pride that is harder to achieve when you are continually being provided external support. Travellers come away knowing first hand their funds, and time, have created new jobs, provided builders to construct toilets or wells and left someone inspired on a new business venture.

    Whether it is donating a food cart and teaching Cambodian locals how to sell their tasty snacks to tourists, or helping women set up a jewellery business that expands beyond their current reach, by giving your skills and time freely whilst travelling, you can create the most empowering and impactful results.


    Whilst Cambodia might be famed for the historic temple complex of Angkor and a sunrise photo is a necessity of any visit, it is also a country haunted by a tragic past.

    Learning first hand about the Pol Pot regime from tour leaders who have lived through it, as well as visiting the S21 prison and killing fields allows travellers a greater insight into the past of this charming land.

    The chance to support local communities here, whether by staying in a homestay and understanding the country from the inside out, or by seeing the impact of sanitised toilets, new homes and water filter that a traveller has made possible is one of the most rewarding ways to explore this country.


    Crossing a countries border by boat is always exciting, and when travelling from Phnom Penh to Chau Doc you get the chance to see the waterways of these two breathtaking countries meeting. Chau Doc itself is a beautiful mix of green rice fields, small markets and the Mekong river, where many residents live on floating houses and creating job opportunities as well as supporting repairs to keep homes above water is both beautiful and rewarding.

    Ho Chi Minh, formally known as Saigon, is a vast contrast. These buzzy streets are teeming with scooters, stall traders and street food so good you will be back for seconds. It is here you can learn about the past of the country from the war museum or by visiting the Cu Chi Tunnels and seeing first hand what life underground at war was like.

    Further north, the UNESCO old town of Hoi An provides a colourful backdrop for wandering between small alleys and mouthwatering cafes. At night, lanterns of all shades light up as candles float down the river to create one of the most visually stunning moments this country has to offer. It is here you can provide support to specialist hospitals who help those affected by the remains of Agent Orange and similar chemical warfare.


    India is perhaps the most challenging, yet rewarding destination you can explore – and we take you right to the heart of it.

    The Golden Triangle, consisting of Jaipur, Delhi and Agra is one of the most popular options to tour in this country. From the famous Taj Mahal to the the grand Mosques and gardens of Delhi, it is here you can take in some of the most magnificent sites in the country. Jaipur, the pink city, serves up impressive Forts alongside intricate palaces. Each city has such a unique vibe, two weeks here will take you on a visual and emotional journey like no other.

    With so many people living below the poverty line and in Slums throughout India, here we focus on empowerment and education. With various school partners to support through supplies and assistant teaching as well as women empowerment projects which create real revenue driving work opportunities, the reward of giving your time here will never be forgotten.

    The world is smaller than ever and as more people learn about different cultures, laws and politics from the media the landscape of travel has shifted. Many travellers don’t want to just see the sights now but truly experience them. There has been a shift away from exploring to education, and with this the desire for so many to have a positive impact on the world.

    Spread the word, #EmpowermentTourism is here to stay!

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