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Exclusive: no deal as AAoA, TAA part ways on ‘unified voice’

Julian Clark

AAoA President Julian Clark

By James Wilkinson

Both the Accommodation Association of Australia (AAoA) and the Australian Hotels Association (AHA) say they will each push on and run separate organisations after it has been revealed the Memorandum of Understanding (MOU) signed by the organisations in September 2014 to form a joint venture is no longer on the table.

While the AHA and AAoA established a joint working board and implemented due diligence with the aim of developing a ‘one voice’ organisation to represent the accommodation sector, HM understands at the completion of the due diligence process a deal was unable to be struck, effectively leaving the organisations to part ways.

Since then, the AAoA says most chains in Australia have now backed the AAoA to be the voice of the industry going forward at this stage, with AAoA CEO Richard Munro revealing to HM that 85% of chains were committed to that organisation.

“The Accommodation Association of Australia continues to be firmly committed to uniting the accommodation industry through strong representation which has a single vision and a single voice, purely focused on accommodation beds,” he said.

“We have consulted widely and the overwhelming vast majority of the chains (in excess of 85% of chains) in Australia will join with the large regional network of independent members of the Accommodation Association of Australia to achieve the single vision, which will lead to better outcomes for members.

“The majority of operators of accommodation businesses in Australia have expressed a desire for industry representation which is no longer compromised by competing interests, such as gambling and liquor, and that is what will be delivered.

“The Association is an evolving organisation, reflecting our growing industry and as a result, we will soon announce a number of exciting initiatives to ensure advocacy on behalf of the accommodation industry is taken to a new level, nationally and across each state and territory.

“The first step is to reinvigorate the Board and we are delighted to announce the following additional appointments to join the existing Board members, being: Simon McGrath, Chief Operating Officer, Accor; Trent Fraser, Chief Executive Officer, Choice Hotels Australasia; and Zed Sanjana, Chief Executive Officer, Quest Serviced Apartments.”

On the AAoA board, they join President Julian Clark, Chief Executive Officer, Lancemore Group; Rachel Argaman, Chief Executive Officer, TFE Hotels; Col Hughes, Independent Director; Bruce Copland, Independent Director; Ian Sandilands, Director, Best Western Hotels; and Andrew Turner, Executive Vice President of Hotel Management, SilverNeedle Hotels.

Munro told HM “additional appointments to the board are pending” as further chains committed to AAoA.

“While these changes have been taking place, we have not been distracted from our main task of continuing to advance the interests of operators in the accommodation industry to key external stakeholders, including government,” Munro said.

“For example, our Association was the only one to lodge a submission to the Federal Government’s Tax White Paper process which has a sole focus on issues which directly impact on tourism accommodation businesses.

“While last week, we have submitted a policy paper and consulted with key Ministers in Canberra in response to the current review of disability access standards, another issue which is of vital importance to our industry,” he said.

AHA CEO, Stephen Ferguson, told HM the organisation was firmly committed to forming once voice and he was disappointed a deal could not be struck.

He said following the completion of the due diligence process “AHA made an amended offer to AAoA last month (May) which proposed that TAA would service the obligation of their members at no additional fee, for up to 12 months, with the intention of retaining the spirit of the agreement whilst attending to the matters raised by the advisors”.

“This offer was rejected but that the AHA was committed to maintaining and strengthening an accommodation representative body – Tourism Accommodation Australia – to focus solely on the needs and drivers of the accommodation sector.

“We are disappointed that the original negotiation for a united voice did not proceed, but through Tourism Accommodation Australia, we remain committed to creating one well-resourced and effective national accommodation voice.

Martin Ferguson

TAA Chair, Martin Ferguson

“This organisation, with [former Federal Tourism Minister] Martin Ferguson as Chair, will provide the accommodation sector with its highest-ever level of advocacy and representation at Federal Government level.

“AHA/TAA is in the best position to tackle the most pressing issues facing the accommodation sector, in particular workplace reforms, which are to be examined by the Fair Work Commission.

“The TAA Board will be supported by the strong financial base of the AHA, with 15 dedicated workplace relations staff, and representation in every state and territory. It will be resourced at the national level as well as the state level.

“TAA has strong representation from the majority of the international hotel brands, and remains committed to broadening our membership base, welcoming both licensed and unlicensed premises to ensure we represent the full views and interests of Australia’s accommodation sector,” Ferguson told HM.

With Martin Ferguson joining the TAA, the organization now has one of the most senior voices in tourism and he said he was committed to growing the association’s voice in Canberra.

“TAA has strong representation and advocacy nationwide through its branches in each state and territory and I am looking forward to ensuring the industry has a strong voice in Canberra,” he said.

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