[25 August 2020:] The Australian Federation of Travel Agents’ electorate program continues to deliver with Member for Wentworth David Sharma raising the plight of travel agents in Federal Parliament.
Mr Sharma told the House of Representatives on Monday 24 August:
Many businesses are struggling through this pandemic. It is a unique crisis affecting every corner of society. I wanted today to particularly single out the travel industry today for whom this crisis has been particularly damaging—the airline workers and associated businesses, tourism businesses —but the topic I want to speak about today is travel agents. Over the last few weeks I have been meeting and visiting with a number of travel agencies in my own electorate: Wentworth Travel at Double Bay, All Tours at Edgecliff, Right Directions Travel in Queens Park, Flight Centre at Edgecliff and the Travel Club Industry in Paddington. I have been hearing firsthand how they are dealing with these unprecedented challenges. Some have never been as busy but it is in processing refunds. When they have processed the refunds, they have also had to return the commissions they earned from these sales. These businesses have benefited from JobKeeper but, in many respects, it has never been tougher for them. They have many of the same costs but their cash flow is often negative because they have no new bookings coming through the door.
International travel has taken a big hit. There are no cruises or even domestic travel, flights or packages to places like Queensland, Broome and Uluru. I want today to acknowledge the tough times they face and the stress they're under. But they are all doing the right thing, serving their customers, keeping their doors open, keeping their employees on and, for many, keeping a smile on their faces. I know this is a story being replicated across the country. I want to encourage people, if you're looking to book travel soon, to please use your local travel agents.
AFTA CEO Darren Rudd has now co-ordinated 9 visits to local Members and provided the opportunity for 26 travel agents to share their stories directly with political influencers.
The electorate campaign builds on AFTA’s direct lobbying at a Federal level, multiple submissions and recent appearance before the Senate Select Committee into COVID-19.
Mr Rudd and Mr Manwaring covered a range of key priorities for travel agents including the reality of the payment ecosystem including money flow and refund challenges; the devasting revenue reality for agents; the critical need for international travel to resume; and the compelling case for tailored, ongoing financial support and business relief measures for travel agencies.
Darren Rudd, AFTA CEO said:
“AFTA is attacking this problem at multiple levels to make sure our political decision makers understand how devastatingly hard hit travel agents have been by COVID, border closures and travel restrictions and why tailored, ongoing financial support and business relief measures are essential.”
“The impact of hearing directly from agents from within their local community really hits home as David Sharma’s comments to Parliament show. He, and in fact all the parliamentarians briefed so far now understand the multiple challenges travel agents face, the value of travel agents and the important work travel agents have been providing in supporting consumers.”
“One of the many benefits of the electorate visits in addition to raising understanding of travel agents’ challenges is that they ensure our community has a voice in our National Parliament and amongst our political class at all levels.”
“AFTA and our members will continue to raise awareness and push for support at a Federal, State and Territory level as we work together to get through this.”