[1 September 2020:] With an estimated $4bn worth of bookings still to be processed on consumers’ behalf and funds returned to Australians, The Australian Federation of Travel Agents (AFTA) has called on the Federal Government to provide a Travel Agent Support Package of $125m as well as a range of business relief measures.
AFTA’s Pre-Budget Submission highlights the fact that travel agents, tour operators and travel wholesalers are on the pandemic frontline supporting consumers while being amongst the worst hit of Australian businesses with 90%-plus revenue drops and little sign of real recovery without the resumption of international travel.
Quotes attributable to AFTA CEO Darren Rudd:
“Travel agencies have zero revenue coming in, an enormous amount of refunds still to process which means they’re currently operating on a negative cashflow basis, and have no end in sight on the continued closure of domestic and international borders. Right now, the primary priority of our members is doing everything they can to obtain the maximum refund for their customers.”
“The continued professional management of this process is vital. The monies returned will, and are already, stimulating the Australian economy. The billions of dollars still outstanding will continue to deliver a very positive economic outcome for the nation as they are returned. But the process of managing that return is complex and lengthy.”
“Travel Agents and wholesalers are working through the complicated process of refunds and credits under COVID-19 conditions (resources and systems stretched beyond capacity) repatriating outstanding funds of approximately $10 billion, which will be reinvested in Australian businesses, including tourism in Australia. These funds represent an enormous stimulus for the Australian economy, which require the expertise of travel agents to ensure the maximum value is returned to our customers.”
“Now, more than ever, travel agents are proving their value to their customers and the increasing number of non-customers who have turned to them for support. AFTA estimates 80% of the current workforce is working full time on refunds, cancellations and credits, in an effort to help consumers. And to this, the specialised expertise required to navigate the individual Terms and Conditions that each supplier has and the complexity becomes obvious. This is not a role that is easily absorbed by Government even if the personnel resources were available.”
“AFTA is firmly of the view that the survival of those employed in the thousands of small to medium sized businesses, currently providing a valuable service to an estimated 4 million Australians warrants special consideration and the allocation of a specific industry grant.”
“AFTA proposes a comprehensive package of measures to bridge the financial impact of the travel sector by assisting both AFTA accredited agents and non-AFTA members and their customers through the direct impacts of the COVID-19 pandemic on their businesses and travel plans, and back to profitability from late 2021.”
“This is a critical time for our sector and unless we all work together, there are many businesses which will not survive. We don’t want that to happen. This is a sector which has spent generations helping Australians get overseas for commerce and culture, family and friends reunions and now it’s time for our society to help them in return and by doing so help restart our economy.”
AFTA has asked the Federal Government to provide a range of support initiatives to ensure the sector’s survival, the most significant of which include:
Media Contact: Joanne Arancibia, 02 9287 9900 or firstname.lastname@example.org