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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) 

  • Wed, November 04, 2020 10:19 AM | Deleted user

    With no outbound travel, aviation capacity has been slashed, devastating Australia's inbound tourism sector. Each of these factors has a massive impact on Australia’s economy.

    In 2018-19, tourism was a key driver of growth for the Australian economy. Domestic and international tourism spend totalled $122 billion, making the industry one of Australia’s biggest employers and economic contributors.

    THIS WELL-RESEARCHED ARTICLE sums up the current state of our outbound travel sector.

  • Thu, October 22, 2020 1:29 PM | Deleted user

    Peter is Head of Sales at Globus Family of Brands, and was recently elected to the CATO Board for the first time. In this quick Q&A, he takes a look at the role CATO and tour operators will play as the industry emerges from the COVID pandemic, and his quest to see a blue footed booby.

    What was your first 'travel' job, and where does your passion for travel come from?

    Working in reservations for a different tour operator. My grandfather was a great traveller and his stories inspired me to see the world. Once I graduated from a teaching degree at Uni, I spent the next year and a half travelling and never came back to teaching. I was bitten.

    What are you most looking forward to delivering, influencing or achieving during your time on the CATO Board?

    The Globus family of brands (GFOB) is a major player in the region and I would like to add GFOB’s voice to the table as a respected and long-term operator. I look forward to working together with the other board members to create opportunity, guidance and a strong voice for Australian tour operators.

    Image: Peter with a baby gator in Louisiana

    CATO is the peak representative body for the Australian travel industry's land supply sector, what role do you see it playing in the local industry's recovery from the global covid-19 shutdown?

    I believe CATO plays an intrinsic role in promoting the land sector amongst the trade and I look forward to leveraging my experience and relationships to help CATO support our industry to recover.

    The role of CATO is especially relevant in a post COVID world where consumers need to feel comfortable and secure to make bookings and the CATO badge can contribute to instilling that confidence. We can also help to educate both trade and consumers about the benefits of touring from a health and safety perspective and inspire them with the range of experiences touring can offer.

    CATO Members create and supply travel product to Australia's retail travel networks, what role will those members play in helping retail find its feet again?

    Retail travel agents play a vital role in this market in terms of providing consumers with choice of product that best suit their clients’ requirements. CATO represents such a broad cross section of land suppliers which will fulfill this need for choice of quality operators.

    How can CATO strengthen its relationship with travel agents even more deeply, to ensure things are beneficial for everyone on the other side COVID-19?

    Training is key, both to update experienced agents and to train new ones on the benefits of booking a tour. If we give travel agents the tools and confidence to better sell touring this helps us as the operator and gives agents the invaluable product knowledge that they need. This is especially relevant in helping agents gain an understanding of the health and safety protocols that we all adhere to and have been updating regularly during this time

    Fundamentally, how changed will tourism be when international borders re-open and people start moving again? Will the travel experiences created and operated by the Globus family of brands, for example, be noticeably different?

    The pent-up demand to travel is massive. Once it is safe to travel, I think we are going to see people travelling in record numbers. At GFOB, we want to keep delivering the stress-free holidays we’re known for so have introduced a worldwide assurance program which will protect the health and safety of our guests. The program looks at travel protocols and procedures, including reduced ship and tour capacities, mandatory health checks for all staff and guests, new cleaning technologies and increased hands-free facilities.

    If you could travel to any place on the planet right now, where would it be?

    I was planning to travel to the Galapagos and Peru in May on Monograms with my wife. I would love to be able to rebook that trip. The blue footed booby and Machu Pichu will still be there when the situation changes. I can’t wait to jump on a ridiculously long set of flights and see it all for myself.

  • Thu, October 22, 2020 1:15 PM | Deleted user
    • Australia's peak cruise, touring and tourism export bodies have forged closer ties during the COVID pandemic, collaborating across areas of common concern and advocacy.
    • Recent meetings have confirmed unified support for their respective sectors.

    The Council of Australia Tour Operators (CATO) met with fellow industry bodies in recent weeks —Cruise Lines International Association (CLIA) and the Australian Tourism Export Council (ATEC)—with a view to confirming relevant cross-sector support.

    CATO's Adelaide-based chairman, Dennis Bunnik, took advantage of the recently re-opened South Australia-New South Wales border to visit Sydney for high-level meetings with the other industry associations.

    "Throughout the COVID crisis, CATO has vigorously advocated for industry unity and working together for the greater good. These high-level meetings with CLIA and ATEC were an important part of this process," said Bunnik.

    Through the series of meetings, conversations centred around joint concerns over border closures, government support, media coverage, COVID-safe travel protocols and the rebuilding of consumer confidence post-pandemic.

    Describing the collaborative efforts, CATO's Managing Director Brett Jardine noted that, "Even though each association is dealing with its own unique challenges around COVID, there are common threads that are important to explore for the benefit of all of us."

    Joel Katz and Gavin Smith from CLIA, with CATO's Dennis Bunnik and Brett Jardine.

    Image: Joel Katz and Gavin Smith from CLIA, with CATO's Dennis Bunnik and Brett Jardine.

    CATO's discussions with CLIA acknowledged that the industry sectors they represent produce an enormous quantity of the product supplied to—and marketed cooperatively through—travel agents.

    "CATO and CLIA members are heavily invested in retail distribution. It's clear that both sectors will play a vital role in leading the recovery of the outbound travel industry," says Jardine.

    The two bodies also shared information on government lobbying efforts around border issues, and committed to continue working together on this and other areas of mutual interest.

    CATO leadership also met with ATEC's Managing Director, Peter Shelley, to consider the travel industry’s product distribution eco-system, and the importance of tour operators, wholesalers and Inbound Tour Operators which are largely hidden from government view but will be critical for the industry’s recovery.

    Image: ATEC’s Peter Shelley with Brett Jardine and Dennis Bunnik from CATO.

    "Whilst CATO is focused primarily on outbound travel, and ATEC focused on inbound, our needs are 100% complimentary as our members’ products and services underpin aviation capacity into and out of Australia. It is vital that we join forces in supporting a coordinated plan to open our borders," says Jardine.

  • Tue, September 29, 2020 5:22 PM | Deleted user

    Aaron is a partner at Pointon partners Lawyers and probably the only lawyer in Australia that operates a tour business. Aaron was recently elected to the CATO Board for the first time, and in this quick Q&A, he takes a look at the future of travel, and the role CATO can play in the industry's recovery in Australia.

    You're a lawyer with a travel background, tell us a little about your travel industry experience.

    I fell into travel by accident – when I was in university, a bunch of friends and I developed a community of soccer fans to support Australia’s national teams known as the ‘Green & Gold Army’. The community developed to a stage where we were able commercialise it through the sale of organised travel packages to major soccer tournaments.

    We’ve been operating group travel programs since the 2010 FIFA World Cup South Africa. Our last major project was for the 2018 FIFA World Cup Russia, where we delivered group travel programs for around 700 Australians.

    From the legal side, I never really had a focus on travel law until I moved to London in 2015 and fell into a role with a firm that had a travel industry speciality. I acted for numerous tour operators, OTAs, wholesalers and agent groups while in the UK.

    I moved back to Melbourne at the end of 2018 and started a dedicated Travel, Tourism & Events practice group at my current firm, Pointon Partners.

    You've consulted to CATO for a few years in a legal capacity with your company, Pointon Partners, what motivated you to run for a position on the CATO Board?

    I’ve been actively involved with CATO since early 2019 when I presented at CATO’s ‘Crisis Management’ conference - who would’ve thought the learnings of that day would be activated little more than a year later.

    During the Covid-crisis, my involvement increased and I worked with Brett Jardine (MD) and Dennis Bunnik (Chairman) to represent the industry in discussions with the ACCC in relation to consumer credits and the like.

    From that work, I thought there was a need for a ‘legal voice’ on the CATO Board.

    Something of an outsider, what experience, expertise or unique viewpoints do you think you'll bring to the CATO Board?

    I think I bring a unique mix of legal and practical industry experience - I would assume I’m probably the only lawyer in Australia that actually operates a tour operating business.

    I understand the difficulties industry operators are experiencing, because my business is going through the same pain – we had some large programs planned for the Tokyo Olympics and the Copa America soccer tournament in Argentina. So we are dealing with refund demands, credits and all of that.

    From the legal side of things, I act for 50 + tour operators of various sizes and so I’m also able to use the general feedback from my clients to contribute to discussions on issues the CATO Board are considering.

    CATO is the peak representative body for the Australian travel industry's land supply sector, what role do you see it playing in the local industry's recovery from the global covid-19 shutdown?

    CATO has developed into a strong and active voice for the land supply sector. Covid has really highlighted the need for industry participants to come together to achieve best outcomes. I see CATO continuing its advocacy, representative and educational work to ensure the land supply sector is able to navigate through the crisis as best it can.

    CATO Members create and supply travel product to Australia's retail travel networks, what role will those members play in helping retail find its feet again?

    From the leisure side of things, retail’s bounce-back will be more difficult if there isn’t interesting and compelling product to sell. I know CATO members are using the ‘down-time’ to concentrate on developing new and interesting product offerings to meet changed consumer expectations. Hopefully this work will assist retail to find its feet sooner than later.

    Fundamentally, how changed do you think tourism will be when international borders re-open and people start moving again?

    I suppose it all depends on whether or not an effective vaccine is developed. The industry will no doubt experience consolidation regardless. From a travelling public perspective, maybe I’m being naïve, but I don’t think the ‘tourism experience’ will change all that much. But hopefully it means the end of the buffet!

    If you could travel to any place on the planet right now, where would it be?

    Having been cooped-up in Melbourne for past month or so, I’ve had plenty of time to dream about laying on a sun-lounger with a cocktail at a beach club in Mykonos!

  • Thu, September 17, 2020 7:15 PM | Deleted user
    • The Council of Australian Tour Operators (CATO) strongly supports the call for the re-opening of domestic borders by industry heavyweights.
    • CATO also calls for swift implementation of safe travel bubbles with nearby countries.
    • The land-supply sector is the lifeblood of the travel industry helping to underpin 40,000 jobs.

    The recent joint call for the re-opening of Australia’s borders by travel industry heavyweights—Flight Centre, Helloworld, Qantas and Virgin Australia—is strongly supported by CATO and its members. It follows a similar push by the Save Australian Tourism group led by hoteliers James & Hayley Baillie, and a petition on the Qantas website.

    “The continued closure of Australian domestic borders despite low or nil infection rates is having a devastating impact on the travel and tourism industry and the many hundreds of thousands of jobs that rely on them. It is also causing unnecessary mental stress and anguish to countless Australians cut off from their families located interstate.” - CATO Managing Director, Brett Jardine

    With proper test and trace protocols in place, CATO believes now is the time to start safely opening borders so that the travel and tourism industry can commence its recovery.

    Describing the role CATO and its land-supply sector members play, Jardine said, “Our tour operator and wholesale members create, supply and deliver the land-based travel services sold through Australian travel agencies. They play a significant role in underpinning the 40,000 jobs that comprise the Australian outbound travel sector.”

    CATO is also calling for the Federal Government to move forward with plans for the initial safe opening of domestic borders followed by the implementation of safe travel bubbles with nearby countries that have similar low infection rates. This will allow systems and protocols to be tested so we can commit to the safe opening of other borders.

    Jardine added that, “Many CATO members created domestic programs when international borders closed. Many of these programs are now being re-assessed and cancelled due to unnecessary domestic border closures putting even further financial pressure on travel businesses and impacting their ability to save jobs.”

  • Thu, September 10, 2020 3:20 PM | Deleted user

    CATO Member, Tweet World Travel, has organised a national event that we will be supporting on Saturday 10th October.

    Called 'Stay Strong and Walk together', the event is being held at locations throughout Australia. Its goal is to raise $25,000 with all proceeds to go directly to Beyond Blue, the leading organisation supporting mental health and well-being.

    The non-competitive 10-kilometre fundraising walks take place along scenic trails in each participating city—Adelaide, Gold Coast, Sunshine Coast, Sydney and Perth.

    A fee of $50 per participant is required upon registration, and all proceeds will be donated to Beyond Blue.

    Each participant will receive a $50 travel voucher from Tweet World Travel, and a grand prize of a $1,500 travel voucher will be awarded by lucky draw during BBQ sessions at the end of the walk in each location.

    • Saturday 10th October 2020
    • 9.30 AM - 12.00 PM


    • A fun walk and sausage sizzle
    • Special presentation from a Beyond Blue speaker
    • $50 travel voucher valid for travel up to 31st December 2021
    • Entry into a Lucky Draw for the chance to win a $1,500 travel voucher at each location

    If you can't take part, you can choose to donate directly to Beyond Blue HERE.

    "2020 has been a stressful year for everyone. This is an event to get everyone together to support people in hardship, especially those affected by anxiety, depression, and suicide," said Amanda Davies, Event Coordinator of the Tweet World Foundation.

    "It’s all about coming together, improving your physical and mental well-being and, of course, having a whole lot of socially-distant fun in the process,' added Amanda.

    This event targets a variety of industries affected by COVID-19. The travel industry was initially targeted as Tweet World Foundation recognised the struggle the industry was going through amid COVID-19. During the planning phase, a variety of travel agencies in each state expressed interests to donate and volunteer their time to coordinate the events. Once discussed among Tweet World Travel’s network, a range of organisations in different industries including hospitality, healthcare and education also have expressed interests to join force to make this event successful.

    "We welcome all donations, participation and support for this worthwhile cause. We need as much help as possible," said Twee Carroll, the Managing Director of Tweet World Travel.

    "We care for everyone’s health and well-being, especially members of the travel industry and other industries severely impacted by the coronavirus outbreak. We want them to know that they are not alone, and help is available," she added.

    The Stay Strong and Walk Together will be held at these locations:

    CLICK HERE for detailed event information

    AND CLICK HERE to donate!

    About Tweet World Foundation
    Tweet World Foundation is the not-for-profit charity of Tweet World Travel Group. Tweet World Foundation and its founders aim to give back to the communities where they work, live and travel. The Foundation focuses on giving at home in Australia and to disadvantaged communities in some of the most poverty-stricken regions in Asia.

    For questions or inquiries please contact:

    • Amanda Davies, Event Coordinator on
    • 08 7226 1898 or

  • Wed, August 26, 2020 11:16 AM | Deleted user

    The discussion paper was produced with industry-wide input and identifies two key areas of reform:

    • ATAS - the AFTA Travel Accreditation Scheme.
    • The establishment of a comprehensive consumer-funded insolvency protection scheme.

    The Council of Australian Tour Operators (CATO) has released a discussion paper with the view of creating a path forward for the Australian outbound travel industry post-COVID.

    CLICK HERE to access the discussion paper.

    "A few months ago, CATO called for suggestions for industry reform. The aim being to use the COVID crisis to break down some of the industry’s silos and find a way to come out stronger." 

    CATO Managing Director, Brett Jardine

    The response was significant with CATO receiving submissions and ideas from all over the industry.

    "Two issues in particular were raised time and again. These related to a consumer protection scheme, and reforming ATAS - the AFTA Travel Accreditation Scheme. Our discussion paper is intended to spark debate and discussion on these topics," added Jardine.

    The CATO Board developed the discussion paper over a two-month period.

    The reform CATO is proposing is two-fold:

    • Broadening the scope of ATAS with separate versions for travel agents, tour operators, wholesalers and cruise lines. CATO proposes that ATAS become the 'Australian Travel Accreditation Scheme'.

    Whilst still administered by AFTA, the desire is for such a scheme to be overseen by an independent board with representation from each outbound sector—retail, land supply and cruise—that would sign off on the accreditation criteria for their respective sectors.

    "We believe this will significantly broaden ATAS membership and bring many non-accredited businesses into the fold," Jardine said.

    • Secondly, the establishment of a comprehensive consumer-funded insolvency protection scheme compulsory for all international leisure bookings but only available through ATAS-accredited entities.

    CATO believes that, if adopted, the proposals would provide consumer protection against supplier insolvency, industry protection against credit card chargebacks, and a compelling reason for Australians to book with ATAS-accredited entities thereby protecting the local travel industry.

    "Our industry is in the biggest crisis it has ever faced. Now is the time to come together. Now is the time to reassess everything and to see if there’s a way for our industry to come out better than we went in," asserts Jardine.

  • Fri, August 07, 2020 11:50 AM | Deleted user

    The Council of Australian Tour Operators (CATO) has applied for and been granted access to utilise the World Travel & Tourism Council's (WTTC) recently released "Safe Travel Stamp".

    "Our application has now been approved based on our members implementation of enhanced health and safety measures, in line with the WTTC global Safe Travels protocols," said CATO Managing Director, Brett Jardine.

    WTTC's global Safe Travels protocols were developed to optimise sector-wide recovery efforts by rebuilding confidence among travellers and ensuring a coordinated approach of the global Travel & Tourism public and private sectors.

    WTTC has created and offers the protocols in good faith for use by organisations as they seek to re-open during the COVID-19 pandemic.

    CATO Members use of the Safe Travel Stamp is approved based on your acknowledgement and agreement that:

    • You are committed to the CATO COVID Safe Travel Protocols.
    • Your use of the protocols is entirely voluntary and that WTTC assumes no liability for your use of the protocols.
    • You are solely responsible for deciding whether compliance with, and implementation of, the protocols is suitable for you and lawful in the jurisdiction in which you operate.
    • The protocols have not been approved or accredited by any governmental or regulatory body and serve as a set of ‘best practices’ guidelines only, and that by offering the protocols for use by Organisations, WTTC is not providing an official certification or accreditation system.
    • Use of the protocols will be entirely at your own risk.

    CLICK HERE to review CATO's Safe Travel Protocols.

    CLICK HERE to read the WTTC Safe Travel Stamp User Terms & Conditions.

    Contact CATO at for more information and to request access to the WTTC Safe Travel Stamp.

    The usage example below (right) shows the Safe Travel Stamp incorporating the CATO logo.

  • Wed, August 05, 2020 10:45 AM | Deleted user

    Liz is Managing Director of Sundowners Overland, and was recently elected to the position of Vice-Chair of CATO. In this quick Q&A, Liz talks about her career, the future of travel, and the role CATO can play in the industry's recovery in Australia.

    What was your first 'travel' job, and where does your passion for travel come from?

    My first travel job was as a Tour Leader for Sundowners Overland. I had been living in Japan, travelled back to the UK overland on the Trans Mongolian Railway and through Central Asia (booked through Sundowners) and, after a few years working in IT, decided to make the move into the travel industry. I had specialised in Russian history at university, so it was a natural fit.

    You've been on the CATO Board for two years, and were recently elected to the position of CATO Vice-Chair, what are you most looking forward to delivering, influencing or achieving during your tenure?

    Whilst our sector faces many challenges now, I am optimistic about the future and believe we have the collective capability to create a more cohesive and unified industry.

    As a member of the Road to Recovery Committee we are working hard to ensure our members are well positioned to come out the other side of COVID-19. That includes defining more standardised guidance and protocols for operators so that we give customers confidence to get out there and safely travel and experience the many great destinations and experiences our members provide.

    CATO is the peak representative body for the Australian travel industry's land supply sector, what role do you see it playing in the local industry's recovery from the global covid-19 shutdown?

    As a strong industry advocate, I’d like to see CATO continue to build its profile through a range of trade and consumer channels, so that travellers choose to book their next journey with one of our members knowing that they will not only get a great experience, but also one that is safe and secure.

    Building trust and confidence in our sector and members is the most important role CATO can play in the local industry’s recovery.

    CATO Members create and supply travel product to Australia's retail travel networks, what role will those members play in helping retail find its feet again?

    I am sure that all CATO members will be doing all they can to assist retail with both training and continuing to support and promote booking through a trusted agent to clients. We have all learnt a thing of two about booking conditions over the past few months. Ongoing transparency will be vital to winning the trust and confidence of the customer, which is a collective responsibility.

    How can CATO strengthen its relationship with travel agents even more deeply, to ensure things are beneficial for everyone on the other side COVID-19?

    We have all had to work together over the past few months to try to ensure the best outcomes for impacted clients through COVID-19. Now more than ever the reassurance and assistance that agents can provide their clients will be key coming out the other side.

    Whilst there will be, I believe, some rebalancing of the relationship between agents and suppliers this will hopefully lead to careful matching of client needs to the array of product available to them. In turn, suppliers will be keen to hear how we can assist agents going forward with messaging and ways to boost consumer confidence in the coming months; now more than ever we can all learn from each other.

    Fundamentally, how changed will tourism be when international borders re-open and people start moving again? Will the travel experiences created and operated by Sundowners Overland, for example, be noticeably different?

    I think many things will change, and much will stay the same. The natural curiosity that people have to explore and discover hasn’t changed, and that will mean people will still want to interact and learn from others.

    I feel travellers will fall somewhere on the continuum of extremely cautious and wanting to have a highly curated and managed experience through to those who will continue to explore as they have previously. All, however, will want the reassurance that they are going to be looked after at every step of their journey.

    I am sure that we will all see an increased interest in the “open air” tours, be it in Mongolia, the Caucasus or the wilds of Kyrgyzstan and perhaps less focus, in the short to medium term, on visiting museums.

    At Sundowners Overland we will continue to offer tailored independent journeys, small groups (maximum 15) and private group tours which I believe will continue to grow in popularity. Being able to customise inclusions and offer flexibility on the ground within itineraries will be a feature.

    If you could travel to any place on the planet right now, where would it be?

    Other than back to the UK to see friends and family I’d quite happily be back in mountains in Georgia with some nice wine and cheese!

  • Fri, June 26, 2020 8:32 AM | Deleted user
    • Eleven nominees contested CATO’s six vacant Board positions.
    • Four new-comers were elected bringing energy, capability and experience from a diverse cross-section of CATO's membership to the Board.

    The Annual General Meeting of the Council of Australian Tour Operators was held earlier today—Thursday, 25 June 2020—with a record eleven nominations vying for six vacant Board positions.

    "Just a few years ago we struggled to fill board positions. So, to have a record breaking field of high quality candidates seeking to join the board now is absolutely fantastic. It speaks to how engaged the members are and how important CATO membership has become, especially during this covid crisis," said CATO's Managing Director, Brett Jardine.

    Jardine asserted that, as an organisation, CATO gives every member a voice and, vitally, every member has an equal opportunity be on the board and make a real difference to the land-supply sector and the travel industry more broadly.

    Four CATO Board Members are mid-way through their two-year term including current Chair, Dennis Bunnik, along with Brett Mitchell (Intrepid Group), Amanda McCann (Collette) and Julie King (Julie King & Associates).David Walker, Managing Director – Son’n’Ski Holidays, has been returned by CATO members to his third consecutive term on the CATO Board.

    Liz Anderson, Managing Director at Sundowners Overland was elected unopposed as CATO’s Vice-Chair for the next two years.

    Image: CATO's new Vice-Chair, Liz Anderson with the new-comers to the Board: Brad McDonnell, Lisa Pagotto, Aaron Zoanetti and Peter Douglas.

    “The four other successful nominees who will be joining the CATO Board for the next two years are all new-comers and include a strong line-up of youth, capability, and experience from a cross-section of our membership,” said CATO Managing Director, Brett Jardine.

    The four new CATO Board Member appointments are:

    Acknowledging the efforts of the council's departing board members, Jardine said, "The CATO board is a very active one, and I would like thank the outgoing board members deeply for their considerable contribution and input to CATO."

    Board members ending their term at this time are Halina Kubica – Greece & Mediterranean Travel; Matt Cameron Smith – AAT Kings; and Justine Waddington – Encounter Travel.


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