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image courtesy: Austria Tourism, Nationalpark Hohe Tauern Karten/ Franz Gerdi

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

  • Fri, November 18, 2022 9:36 AM | Deleted user

    The Council of Australian Tour Operators (CATO) leadership today met with Senator Don Farrell, Special Minister of State and Minister of Trade and Tourism in Adelaide, to call for the opening up of Australian air capacity by way of a 12-24 month Open Skies Agreement. 

    CATO Managing Director Brett Jardine, Chair Dennis Bunnik and Vice-Chair Lisa Pagotto raised the Open Skies Agreement during far reaching discussions with the Minister, that focused on fast tracking the recovery of the travel and tourism industry. 


    “Our tour operator and wholesaler members are seeing their post-covid recovery curtailed by the severe lack of airline capacity and the resulting high prices being demanded by airlines.”said Brett Jardine, Managing Director, CATO.

    Currently international airlines’ access to landing slots in Australia is governed through bi-lateral agreements between countries. A recent CAPA Aviation Conference in Adelaide advised that Australia’s international air capacity is at only 57% of pre-covid levels.  This is severely restricting travel and tourism recovery.  An Open Skies Agreement would allow any airline, unlimited capacity to fly into Australia.

    CATO believes opening up air-capacity will provide the largest single boost to the recovery of the travel and tourism industry post-covid. It will create jobs throughout Australia, facilitate the growth of exports and help address critical labour shortages.

    “The positive impacts of an open skies strategy will be felt throughout the economy.” added Jardine.

    CATO represents the land supply sector of the Australian travel industry. CATO tour operators and wholesalers create, market, and deliver domestic and international travel product sold both direct to consumers and through travel agencies. CATO members enable Australians to explore the world and return home safely. Outbound international leisure travel generated an economic benefit of more than $12b per annum pre-covid, and helps to underpin international aviation capacity, an integral part of the travel and tourism ecosystem. 

  • Thu, November 17, 2022 4:03 PM | Deleted user

    'Tis the season to be jolly … and to celebrate the comeback of travel. Could there be a finer way to do this than at the CATO Christmas Lunch? Naturally, CATO thinks not. 

    ‘Tis the season to be jolly … and to celebrate the comeback of travel. Could there be a finer way to do this than at the CATO Christmas Lunch? Naturally, CATO thinks not. 

    But the proof’s in the pudding (the Christmas variety of course) – and with the event open to the entire travel industry for the first time and ticket sales far surpassing expectations, it’s shaping up to be one sweet occasion. 

    Platinum sponsor Qatar Tourism has booked their place as have many other industry luminaries. Have you?

    As the major media sponsor of the Christmas lunch, Karryon got the lowdown from CATO managing director Brett Jardine about what’s on the menu for the event, the importance of reconnecting, and how CATO (and the whole industry) has been much nicer than naughty this year. 

    CATO Managing Director Brett Jardine.

    How special does this year’s event feel? Is there a renewed sense of optimism in travel?

    This year’s event feels incredibly special. It is the first time we have opened our Christmas event to the wider industry and we are so excited to connect further with everyone and build on the positive momentum right now. 

    Absolutely there is a renewed sense of optimism. We are seeing and hearing it from our members and while we have all banded together through the toughest times our industry has faced, as we rebuild it is even more important to stay connected and continue those relationships, which were strengthened during these times of adversity.

    Why did you open up this year’s event to the whole industry? Will future events follow?

    The past 2.5 years have been about unity, a collective voice and a collaborative approach to our industry. CATO has led the way by being the backbone of our sector and we could not have achieved what we did without our industry partners. This event is as much a thank you as it is a celebration as we all continue to move forward. 

    It is also an opportunity for CATO members to reconnect with the trade and their partners. Having the broader industry at our luncheon will allow another layer of face-to-face connection that has been missing for so long and as we all know, these sorts of events stimulate new connections and opportunities, which at present are endless. We intend to continue this theme with future events.

    CATO Board Members with Tourism Research Australia in Canberra in June.

    What has the response been from the industry?

    The response has been incredible. The interest and ticket sales have far surpassed where we thought we would be a month out from the event and this shows how keen everyone is to reconnect and celebrate the highs and lows of what has passed and what is to come. We are so glad CATO can be a catalyst to reconnect our members and so many industry partners.

    What can guests expect from this year’s Christmas Lunch?

    This Christmas Lunch is different to other Christmas functions. We will have some fun, educational elements, reflection and forward thinking. This is more than just a cocktail function; there will be a delicious three-course meal with drinks included and an incredible afterparty with plenty of time for networking.

    The Ivy Ballroom – what will the CATO Christmas Lunch hold?

    CATO memberships grew significantly during the pandemic – what was key to this success?

    Defining CATO members as the backbone of our industry was a critical part of our discussions with the government. Tour operators and wholesalers are the businesses that take the risk to invest in product development years before it is sold through their retail travel agent partners. 

    The traction that CATO was able to establish during the pandemic showed the power of unity to businesses in our sector and members have appreciated an industry voice specifically for them. The collective community strengthened during the pandemic and encouraged people to want to be part of something bigger. 

    CATO Christmas event in 2020.

    What would you say to businesses considering CATO membership?

    If you are a participant in the travel industry and package domestic or international leisure travel products, you are deemed a principal. Chat with us about all the checks and balances required to operate in this capacity. 

    Many retail agents are unwittingly acting as principals without the right insurance and/or booking terms and conditions in place. There is nothing illegal about operating in this way however, we are aware that many business owners are potentially exposing themselves to serious financial risk.

    In addition to our tour operator and wholesale membership, we also offer a fabulous network of associate members, covering tourism boards, technology providers, airlines and other product/service providers, with a strong interest in engaging with the land supply sector. Contact us to understand what membership options are available. 

    CATO Trivia Event 2022.

    What does CATO have planned for 2023 and beyond?

    CATO is busy planning an expanded events schedule for the year that will focus on supporting our members’ needs and continuing to drive engagement with the wider industry. The major events will include a Crisis, Risk & Resilience conference, Annual Travel Trivia event and our CATO Industry Christmas Lunch, along with numerous other state-based events. 

    For more on the CATO Christmas Lunch, register here.

    Source: Karryon

  • Sat, November 12, 2022 7:44 AM | Deleted user

    "The CATO Christmas Lunch is now firmly on the travel industry calendar as the must attend event in Sydney, and with more than 250 tickets sold we anticipate an audience of well over 300.” said CATO Managing Director, Brett Jardine.

    “As we emerge from COVID, the pent-up demand for outbound land-based leisure travel is significant and we are excited to have Qatar Tourism supporting this iconic event, and the opportunity to showcase this wonderful destination.” added Jardine.

    "Qatar Tourism is delighted to be the platinum sponsor of the CATO industry Christmas lunch. We see CATO and its members as key partners in helping us promote Qatar to the Australian travelling public", said Qatar Tourism regional sales director, Richard Styles.

    The CATO Industry Christmas Lunch, held on 8th December at the Ivy Ballroom, is open to all travel industry participants. For those that have not yet secured their place, there are a limited number of tickets remaining – click here to purchase.

  • Fri, September 30, 2022 4:23 PM | Anonymous member (Administrator)

    The Council of Australian Tour Operators (CATO) has expanded its annual members Christmas lunch to now welcome all industry participants. This highly attended event will be held at one of Sydney’s most iconic event spaces, the Ivy Ballroom on Thursday 8th December.

    “Opening the Christmas lunch event up to the wider industry will provide a valuable opportunity for current and past participants across all facets of the industry to gather, reconnect and celebrate together another challenging year” said CATO Managing Director, Brett Jardine.

    Jardine added “The CATO Board is actively seeking ways to provide support to the wider industry and sharing the spirit of our annual Christmas event is the perfect platform”

    The CATO Christmas lunch will be followed by an after party at the Ivy’s famous “Pool Bar” with attendees expected to celebrate festivities well into the evening. Tickets are now available here.

  • Mon, September 19, 2022 4:42 PM | Anonymous member (Administrator)

    The Council of Australian Tour Operators (CATO), and the Korea Tourism Organization Sydney Office (KTO) have united to deliver some valuable CATO member events over the coming weeks in Brisbane, Melbourne, and Sydney.

    The events will commence in Melbourne on Wednesday 21st September 2022 at the Intrepid Group Head Office, where CATO members will hear from Intrepid co-founder Geoff Manchester, on the benefits of B-Corp Certification.

    CATO members will hear from Alissa O'Connell, Global Head of People and Culture, Flight Centre Travel Group, at the Brisbane event on Thursday 6th October 2022, at Mojo’s Bistro. Alissa will share insights into talent acquisition and employee retention in the current climate.  

    The trio of events will conclude in Sydney on Wednesday 19th October where CATO Vice-Chair, Lisa Pagotto will emcee a Korean style banquet, sharing insights in conversation with senior members of the KTO team.

    “These events are part of CATO’s renewed focus on providing valuable networking opportunities and support for members, as they continue to emerge from COVID, and we are grateful for the support of KTO Sydney.” said CATO Managing Director, Brett Jardine.

     “We are delighted to be partnering with CATO to showcase South Korea and highlight the variety of adventure that can be enjoyed, the exciting food scene as well as Korea’s unique natural assets.” said Insook Lee, Director, Korea Tourism Organization Sydney Office.

    To register for the events please click here

  • Mon, August 29, 2022 10:25 AM | Anonymous member (Administrator)

    The Council of Australian Tour Operators (CATO) is delighted to announce its new platinum member, Aeronology, which specialises in point of sale (POS) technology for Travel Advisors and Arrangers.

    “Aeronology has developed a unique product, combining online distribution platforms and tour products, making it easy for customers to buy, sell and service quickly and productively. With the current challenges in resourcing, this platform offering will provide significant benefit to our members” said CATO Managing Director, Brett Jardine.

    “Aeronology is extremely proud to be associated with CATO, and will provide its members with the tools, especially Air distribution, that the industry needs for its customers. We offer an easy-to-use platform to use for their travel agents and customers” advised CEO Russell Carstensen.” 

    “We have received extremely positive feedback from our first Tour Operator customer, Journey Beyond and this has resulted in them plugging in Aeronology Air to their selling tools without the stress of increasing staff numbers or expertise.” added Carstensen.

    CATO has recently achieved a new milestone of over 200 members.

  • Thu, August 25, 2022 12:07 PM | Anonymous member (Administrator)

    TIME’s partnership with CATO has resulted in their generously committing to funding a scholarship for the 26 October 2022 intake for an up-and-coming leader of the future

    With 2022 being the start of a new era in travel this opportunity has been provided for a prospective mentee who wishes to upskill to meet the demands of the future and to have access to a mentor who is an experienced industry leader. These people have always provided invaluable insight and a springboard for aspiring and motivated people to be able to grow their career.

    Applications for the scholarship are now open to all Australian employees of the travel industry (providing they meet the criteria) for the intake commencing on 26 October 2022

    Take that step now If you are committed to equipping yourself for the industries’ challenges of the future and apply before the deadline of Monday 26 September 2022

    “CATO is delighted to partner with TIME to provide further support to the travel industry as we emerge from a challenging few years. Now is the time to invest in our future leaders, to retain expertise, passion and knowledge for the industry, whilst equipping them with personalised mentoring, to support their business/career vision through this scholarship” said Brett Jardine, CATO’s Managing Director.

    “TIME appreciates that there are some aspiring TIME applicants who are not able to fund their own participation and thanks to the generosity of CATO this is being made possible “said Penny Spencer

    To download the application form from the TIME website, click on the link below; 

    To learn more about TIME:
    Visit the website:
    Contact TIME at:

  • Fri, July 29, 2022 3:10 PM | Anonymous member (Administrator)

    The Council of Australian Tour Operators (CATO) has spent this week in Canberra meeting various Government Departments in a bid to further strengthen relationships, and continue its advocacy on areas impacting members, as they struggle to emerge from the effects of the pandemic.

    The week commenced with CATO Managing Director, Brett Jardine and CATO Chair, Dennis Bunnik, meeting with the Deputy Chief of Staff and Tourism Policy Advisor from Federal Tourism Minister Don Farrell’s office.

    CATO were provided with an overview of a major staff re-structure that was now complete, with MD Brett Jardine saying, “we are pleased to be able to continue our engagement with supportive and knowledgeable individuals that now hold key roles within the Ministers office.”

    Separate meetings were held with Tourism Research Australia (TRA), Treasury, DFAT and Austrade, where CATO Board Members Lisa Pagotto and James O’Donnell joined Brett Jardine and Dennis Bunnik.

    During the pandemic, CATO worked closely with TRA to help define the true value of outbound leisure travel (more than AUD$12 billion) to the Australian Economy. This work will provide a credible source of data, necessary to ensure our narrative around the value our members provide Australian consumers, as they explore the world. CATO and TRA have committed to an MOU that will detail a scope of works around a major data analysis project that will commence before the end of 2022.

    A further meeting with senior Treasury officials provided a necessary update on the state of the outbound land-supply sector. CATO representatives highlighted three key areas of concern that are impacting members as they struggle to emerge from the effects of the pandemic. These being air capacity, re-employment of skilled workers and consumer confidence.

    “Our ongoing relationship with Treasury is important for government to be well-informed on our challenges”, continued Jardine.

    Finally, a formal industry update was provided at a meeting with Austrade, whose role has now formally expanded as the lead agency across tourism research and export market development grants to also include tourism recovery. Austrade is seeking to understand Australians current propensity to travel, the ongoing use of future travel credits v’s new business, and feedback from organisations that have availed travel. A further update will be provided in the coming weeks, following input from members.

    To conclude the week, CATO have been invited to participate in two major events in Canberra on Friday 5th August. The first joining a roundtable of senior leaders from tourism peak bodies with Minister Hon. Don Farrell and thereafter a roundtable session at Austrade, to provide input into the Australian Government Jobs and Skills Summit. Board Member/Director, James O’Donnell, The Travel Corporation will represent CATO at these meetings.

  • Wed, July 20, 2022 2:07 PM | Anonymous member (Administrator)

    With just over two weeks to go, the Council of Australian Tour Operators (CATO) is thrilled to announce an exciting line up of sponsors supporting the inaugural Travel Trivia Masters event.

    Alongside European Travel Commission as Platinum Sponsor and Air Canada as Gold Sponsor, other supporting sponsors are Total Holiday Options, Spain Tourism, Abercrombie & Kent, Greece & Mediterranean Travel Centre, Abu Dhabi Tourism, A-Rosa, Finnair, Quark Expeditions, Travel Agent Finder and Traveltek.

    Richard Taylor, founder of Travel Community Hub and best known for hosting more than 200 webinar discussions that became a recognised source of connection, community and discussion for many people during the fallout from the Covid-19 pandemic, has been appointed as the MC for the event.

    “Our intent was always to create an event for the whole industry, so we are thrilled at the overwhelming response across all sectors and extremely grateful to the support received from a range of sponsors across the industry. We look forward to seeing all the creativity on the evening, as the Country/Culture themes are brought to life, through costumes and content” said CATO MD, Brett Jardine.

    The event taking place on Thursday the 4th of August will comprise of networking, trivia, a DJ, video booth, prizes and surprises.

    Tickets are almost sold out and we encourage industry partners not to miss out by registering for this event here.

    There are a few remaining sponsorship package opportunities left and for those companies interested, please contact CATO on

  • Mon, July 11, 2022 9:34 AM | Anonymous member (Administrator)

    The Council of Australian Tour Operators (CATO) is delighted to announce that the Australian chapter of the European Travel Commission (ETC) will be the headline, platinum sponsor of the Travel Trivia Masters. This includes the following NTO’s which are members: Atout France, Austria, Flanders (Belgium), Ireland, Italy, Monaco, Portugal, Spain and Switzerland.

    Sofia Hansson, Chair of the ETC’s Australia Chapter said, “We are delighted to partner with CATO for the Travel Trivia Masters this year. There are positive signs of recovery, especially with the ease of restrictions and gradual increase in air access, and events like this provide us with an excellent platform to spread the good word about the many great experiences that Australian travellers can enjoy around Europe.”

    Livio Goetz, Vice Chair, ETC Australian Chapter added, “With more air access now, including direct flights to Rome, Europe is open to Australian travellers, and this event provides the perfect platform to re-educate the travel trade on Europe and our destinations in a fun and engaging way.”

    The event taking place on Thursday the 4th of August, invites travel agents, CATO members, and other key industry personnel to enter teams of 10 for a two-course sit-down dinner and drinks.

    CATO MD, Brett Jardine echoed Goetz’s comments by saying, “We are thrilled the ETC Australian chapter is partnering with us for the inaugural Travel Trivia Masters. We look forward to experiencing on the night their showcase of what’s on offer for Europe, utilising trivia as the education platform.”

    With just under a month to go until the inaugural CATO Travel Trivia Masters, tickets are selling out fast and over half of the sponsorship packages have been secured. To register for this event please click here

    To find out more about tailored sponsorship opportunities for the event contact CATO on

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