Govt to in­ves­ti­gate ‘un­fair’ com­mis­sions

Port Douglas & Mossman Gazette - - FRONT PAGE - PAUL MIL­TON BUT­LER

TTOURISM op­er­a­tors in the Dou­glas rere­gion have wel­comed an in­quiry in­into the “out­ra­geous” com­mis­sions ppock­eted by some tour desk op­er­a­to­tors.

The State Govern­ment an­nounced the in­quiry on Tues­day af­ter com­plaints from tour op­er­a­tors be­ing charged up to 35 per cent of the re­tail price for book­ings.

Lo­cal busi­nesses are also be­ing forced to wait up to five months for pay­ment from tour desk com­pa­nies, with some owed tens of thou­sands of dol­lars.

Many of the op­er­a­tors, who asked not to be named for fear of re­tal­i­a­tion by the book­ing agents who han­dle their busi­ness, said if noth­ing was done they face “go­ing to the wall” if the com­mis­sions re­main in place, es­pe­cially dur­ing the com­ing low sea­son.

One of Port Dou­glas’ ma­jor tourism play­ers said the Govern­ment’s re­al­i­sa­tion that small tourism busi­nesses strug­gling with cash flow are ma­jor con­trib­u­tors to the state’s cof­fers was well over­due.

“The whole sys­tem has got­ten com­pletely out of con­trol with greed and lack of any trans­parency be­ing the main driv­ing forces be­hind the tour desk com­mis­sions,” he said.

“And in many cases the ’wrong prod­uct’ is be­ing sold to the ’wrong peo­ple’ so the com­mis­sions will be higher - it’s just all be­come about money. But that just de­stroys the Port Dou­glas brand be­cause when those tourists re­turn home, whether here or over­seas, they will tell their friends and fam­i­lies they have been ripped off and will not want to come here.

“But we have many ex­cel­lent tour desk op­er­a­tors here who do the right thing and go out of their way to en­sure each pack­age suits the guest that it is mar­keted to.

“But if the tour desk op­er­a­tor is only af­ter the best com­mis­sion they can get, then it’s a bad ex­pe­ri­ence all round be­cause the cost just es­ca­lates for ev­ery­one.”

Jun­gle Surf­ing Canopy Tours man­ager Sheena Wal­shaw said she was in the for­tu­nate po­si­tion of hav­ing a unique busi­ness and was happy to be pay­ing a com­mis­sion of 20 per cent “but it should not be any higher”.

“I am fully aware the tourist in­dus­try is a com­pet­i­tive busi­ness and we all need to be work­ing to­gether to get the best out­comes for our clients first and fore­most,” she said. “This means sell­ing the right prod­ucts to the right peo­ple and for ev­ery­one to be able to do that we all need to have ac­cess to ’a level play­ing field’ other­wise the whole in­dus­try will fall down.”

An­other Port Dou­glas op­er­a­tor said ev­ery­one used to pay 10 per cent and it should never have risen above that.

“It’s jumped to 20 per cent and it’s too much,” he said. “Ev­ery­one is just out­do­ing each other and of­fer­ing big­ger and big­ger com­mis­sions and so we have no choice but to pay these out­landish com­mis­sions.”

Skysa­fari’s Za Har­richa­ran said five years ago the busi­ness was threat­ened by one tour desk want- ing a rise from 10 per cent com­mis­sion to 25 per cent “or they would re­move our brochures from their stands”. “We told them ’No’,but at the same time were re­ally pan­ick­ing be­cause it could have spelled the end of our busi­ness,” she said.

De­nis Don­aghy, di­rec­tor of one of the big­gest tour desk op­er­a­tors in the re­gion Desti­na­tion Cairns Mar­ket­ing, said it was the tour op­er­a­tors them­selves who de­ter­mined com­mis­sions.

“We have been in busi­ness for the past 25 years and I can tell you that it is the op­er­a­tors who tell us what com­mis­sion they will pay us, not the other way around,” he said.

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