Newcastle-based BKR Member Firm UNW has become one of only two accountancy firms in the North East to receive certification to provide essential services to travel and tourism companies that offer ATOL protection to their customers.
ATOL (Air Travel Organisers) protection means that people flying abroad have assurances they will be able to get home without having to pay any extra if the company they travelled with collapses while they are out of the UK. To pay for this, all companies offering flights pay into a central fund.
As part of the regulations, travel and tourism companies paying into the ATOL fund must provide reports about their financial status, produced by their accountants. Until recently, anyone could provide the financial report on a client’s behalf, but the regulations have been tightened so that ATOL Reporting can only be carried out by certified accountants.
The new certification, developed by the Civil Aviation Authority and professional accountancy bodies, shows that the certified firm has been approved to accurately assess the information.
Under the new ARA Scheme, any accountant providing ATOL Reporting must be properly designated and have achieved the certification, which shows they are knowledgeable about the industry and ATOL’s requirements for the reporting of financial information.
UNW accounting services partner Hazel Smith said: “ATOL registration means that travel agents are regulated and in order to do that they have to provide compliance reporting to ATOL.
“Up until 31 March this year, any accountant could deliver an ATOL report, but now they must have a licence that requires training and sitting an exam.
“UNW is just one of two independent accountants certified in the North East to have this in place.”
UNW works with a number of clients to provide their ATOL Reporting information, including Newcastle-based sports travel firm Nirvana Europe. The company specialises in travel and accommodation packages for athletes and spectators at events such as the Great North Run and Ironman Europe.
Nigel Morris, Operations Director at Nirvana Europe, said: “You have to be ATOL protected if you are selling air travel. It provides us with complete peace of mind.
“We are the official travel partner to a number of key partners and provide flight inclusive packages for athletes, their family and friends.
“We have been UNW clients for over a year now and they are fantastic. I couldn’t recommend them highly enough.”
UNW members of staff were trained and examined under the new scheme before being awarded a licence, which allows the firm to carry out ATOL Reporting work for travel businesses throughout the North East.