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Lockdowns reinforce need for more government support

24 July 2021: The suspension of the Trans Tasman Safe Travel Zone and combined flow on of COVID border closures and restrictions make the need for more government support for travel agents and businesses even more compelling.

An estimated 15,000 jobs have already been lost in Australia’s travel sector. Support measures anchored to jobs like JobKeeper are needed now more than ever given recovery is only going to happen when international travel again becomes possible for most Australians.

Australia’s travel agents have so far secured an estimated $8 Billion worth of credits and refunds for COVID-impacted travel back from hotels, airlines, cruise liners and tour operators for their clients but there’s still an estimated $2 Billion outstanding. This is time-consuming support which agents are providing with little to no income as a result of revenue falls of 95% plus as a result of the international travel ban.

Quotes attributable to AFTA Chair Tom Manwaring (available for interview)
“Which ever way you dice it, Australia’s travel agents and businesses are doing it tough and it’s definitely tougher than this time last year when JobKeeper provided structural support in protecting jobs.”

“Consumers need us now more than ever to help and we need wider and ongoing government support to be able to support the massive effort being put in right around this country by our travel agents and businesses.”

“We are a people business. Right now every agent is 18 months into near zero income and the lack of cash flow clashes with the ongoing business and payroll costs. We were the first hit and will be the last to recover and, without support, a tipping point on massive job losses is looming. JobKeeper provided a simple, equitable and meaningful solution to protect jobs.”

Quotes attributable to Glenn Checkley, Managing Director, Travelonline (available for interview)
“We are a Brisbane based online travel agency specialising in family holidays. We have 25 staff and have been in business for over 25 years. Since the lockdowns in Sydney were announced, our weekly turnover has fallen by over 80% and more importantly, the seasonally important June/July school holiday period was totally wiped out. Hundreds of bookings for families from Sydney and Melbourne heading to the Whitsundays, Port Douglas and Queenstown NZ, were all cancelled.”

“I’m sure we are not the only business based in a non-lockdown area who are severely impacted and not receiving support. We need JobKeeper and rent support back, even if it requires strict turnover reduction tests to ensure the waste of Jobkeeper 1.0 isn’t repeated. At the moment businesses like ours are the forgotten businesses.”

Quotes attributable to Carole Smethurst, Managing Director, Bicton Travel (available for interview)
”At least this time last year we were able to sell domestic travel but now with the yo-yoing of state border closures, consumers just aren’t confident in booking travel. We are in a worse state now than we were at this time last year – at least then we were receiving some government assistance.”
“Consumers were happy to shift bookings for 2020 travel forward to 2021 but now they no longer want to do that. They want to cancel because they’re not confident that they will be able to travel.”

“I had 29 staff pre-COVID. I’m now down to five Full Time and 3 Casuals and I will do whatever is necessary to keep my team together. JobKeeper would allow me to breathe.”

MEDIA CONTACT: LJ Loch 0439 633 429 lj.loch@afta.com.au

Notes for Editors;
The Australian Federation of Travel Agents (AFTA) is the peak body in Australia representing the retail travel industry. Founded in 1957, AFTA represents the majority of travel agents in Australia and includes all of the major travel agency groups.
AFTA is supporting the travel agency community, travelling public and travel suppliers to the best of our ability during this COVID-19 pandemic.