By Adam Daff
A national tourism accreditation scheme that was muted as far back as 1997 and emerged as a brand last year was officially launched Tuesday in Sydney by Martin Ferguson, Minister for Tourism.
Mr Ferguson said T-QUAL would be an “umbrella” quality assurance scheme, rather than a replacement for the likes of AAAT’s star ratings scheme, supported by his ministry, run by the Tourism Quality Council of Australia headed by Simon Currant, marketed by Tourism Australia and partnered online with TripAdvisor.
“Australia is a world-class tourism destination and we want to build on our reputation by ensuring Australia’s 226 million domestic and international travellers have the best possible travel experience by knowing which accommodation, attractions and/or dining options have been through the rigorous, truly national accreditation process to receive the T-QUAL Tick,” Ferguson said.
The development of T-QUAL’s microsite housed within TripAdvisor’s Australian site is a first for the travel site and a tourism quality assurance program.
“Last year, almost half of Australia’s international visitors and a quarter of our domestic overnight visitors used the internet to book travel. That’s why we are incorporating the T-QUAL Tick into TripAdvisor,” Ferguson said.
Ferguson is one of the Federal Labor government’s most experienced ministers and he said he had seen a similar scheme work in the child care sector.
“I was involved in a similar initiative in the child care industry and when we went to the private sector there was a lot of concern from the community that the private sector would get money without reaching appropriate child care standards.
“And after initial opposition from the private sector they became the biggest supporters of it because it said to their potential customers – mums and dads – if you send your children to my childcare centre you’ve met a quality standard established by government. The tourism industry now has a national accreditation scheme that’s a mark of quality. That’s very important in consumer choice and they (tourism operators) will embrace this journey…because it says to potential tourists ‘you’re safe with me’.”
Asked about the role the various hotel and tourism associations might play in garnering industry support for the scheme Ferguson said.
“TQUAL is a new journey…all the (hotel) associations have been consulted, some of them have signed up. They’ve now got a job of working with us because we don’t want a multiplicity of schemes competing. Australia must have one accreditation outcome, one TQUAL tick – that’s what we will say to the international is our mark of quality because consumers what ease of choice.”
Tourism Australia Managing Director, Andrew McEvoy said he expected the new partnership with TripAdvisor to “increase the awareness of Australia’s quality tourism products”.
“It’s taken a long time to get to this point, but we’ve got seven accredited schemes signed up with more than 12,000 products, but there are literally hundreds of thousands of (tourism) products in Australia so this is really the beginning of a journey to quality,” he said.
“The TripAdvisor site is visited by 44 million consumers globally so it makes sense to use this platform to highlight Australia’s quality tourism experiences at the point where people are researching and making their holiday plans.
“From today consumers have the added assurance of quality when they visit the TripAdvisor site and choose Australian tourism products with the T-QUAL Tick.”
McEvoy said the long-awaited T-QUAL Tick would be promoted to consumers and industry from early 2012 on a ‘T-QUAL Tick Tour’. It will also be backed with a raft of other activities including a “T-QUAL Tick Tour” hosted by renowned chef Matt Moran.