‘RIP OFF’ REVIEW
Govt to investigate ‘unfair’ commissions
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.