The 1990s saw increased recognition by many industries, in Australia and overseas, of the need to embrace quality assurance and accreditation systems, resulting in the significant investment which many firms put into gaining ISO 9000-series accreditation. It was inevitable but essential that this trend should involve the Australian Tourism Industry.
Continuous improvement and best business practices are critical to the ongoing success of the Australian tourism industry in meeting the demands of a constantly changing marketplace. Such challenges can best be met through the establishment, maintenance and enforcement of agreed industry standards.
"The most powerful form of advertising is satisfied customers. It is therefore important that standards of service delivery be responsive to consumer demand. As the proportion of inbound visitors increases, more emphasis will need to be placed on meeting international best practice standards.
Quality assurance programs and the accreditation of operators will be essential in helping to raise service standards to acceptable levels. Accreditation systems should not, however, be administered by governments but established and operated by the industry, based on minimum acceptable standards."
Tourism: Getting it right for the Millennium (industry input to the development of a National Tourism Action Plan, written by Mr Jon Hutchison, October 1997, p171.)
Tourism accreditation is a process designed to establish and continually improve industry standards for conducting tourism businesses. It aims to assist every tourism business to improve the way it operates. Thus, accreditation provides consumers and the industry with an assurance that a tourism operator is committed to quality business practices and professionalism in all aspects of the enterprise.
There is no other industry in Australia as diverse as the tourism industry. Its sectors embrace transportation (including air, rail, coach, water), accommodation (whether backpacker hostels or camping/caravan parks, B&Bs, farm stays or boutique hotels, resorts to five-star hotel chains), and tourism operators, attractions, visitor information centres and events too numerous to mention.
Several unrelated moves of varying quality had been taken to address the need for accreditation. It had become obvious that a national coordinated approach was necessary to gain or regain the confidence and support of the industry.
In 1997 the peak industry body Tourism Council Australia (TCA) convened a meeting of stakeholders in Brisbane to decide on how to bring together the various accreditation initiatives to form a national system.
The two main outcomes of that meeting were:
a) To establish a national framework for tourism accreditation using the identification of a national Logo.
b) To establish a national accreditation organisation made up of representatives of all states and territories to oversee the preparation of the system and to monitor its operation.
These objectives were achieved working under the umbrella of TCA. That organisation went into administration in December 2000 and persons involved in accreditation set up an independent company, Australian Tourism Accreditation Association Ltd (ATAA), to carry on the process.
In july 2004, as a result of the Tourism White Paper initiatives and the findings of the National Tourism Accreditation Working Group (NTAWG), ATAA changed its name to Tourism Accreditation Australia Ltd (TAAL) and a new interim Board of Directors was appointed.
The objective of the new organisation was to build upon the strengths of the existing national tourism accreditation framework and to endorse generic and sectoral programs that comply with national core standards.
In accordance with the decision of the 1997 Brisbane meeting, TCA established a National Accreditation Committee, which was subsequently entitled the Australian Tourism Accreditation Authority (ATAA) and is now known as Tourism Accreditation Australia Ltd (TAAL).
It was agreed that the most efficient method to further the establishment of the national program incorporating the existing initiatives was to evolve and adopt cross-sectoral minimum requirements for accreditation. This was called the Australian Tourism Accreditation Standard (the ‘Standard').
Although in some states TCA had taken a leading role in administering accreditation using a broad based model, other states used existing associations or other parties to develop and administer their own programs. National associations may administer programs across state boundaries.
To ensure uniformity of approach and adherence to the Standard, a framework has been established. This addresses the issue of state administration of Accreditation Programs together with the monitoring of the Standard. Federal Government provided funds to initiate the implementation of the Standard and the Framework which became the Australian Tourism Accreditation System.
"Our competitors overseas, such as New Zealand with its ‘Qualmark' brand, actively sell their brand and product in the market using national accreditation programs. reality is that Australia will never be the cheapest or closest destination for most tourism markets so we must compete on increasingly important intangibles like quality, value, consumer expectations and visitor satisfaction'."
"Tourism's growth lies in the industry's ability to deliver ‘Platinum Plus' products and services by meeting and exceeding customer expectations"
The Hon Joe Hockey MP
Minister for Small Business and Tourism
13 february 2004