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Media Release: Federal Support critical to sector’s survival

[11 March 2021:] The Australian Federation of Travel Agents (AFTA) has and will continue to work with the Federal Government to ensure that the extension of the COVID-19 Consumer Travel Support Program provides support to those travel businesses who most need it.

While the details of the Federal Government’s tourism and aviation $1.2 billion recovery package are still to be released, the support is a very welcome and much needed injection for a sector on its knees. Tourism Minister the Hon Dan Tehan confirmed at the launch media conference that an additional $128 Million will be added to the $128 Million COVID-19 Consumer Travel Support Program.

AFTA has asked the Federal Government to anchor the additional support within a framework that is relevant to agency costs and promotes the retention of key expertise within the sector.

A recent survey of AFTA members showed (1513 entity respondents) showed:

  • 67% are small and medium retail leisure agencies;
  • 94% are dealing with a decline in revenue of 90% (with 99% experiencing at least a 70% decline);
  • 80% of the workforce of travel agents businesses are women;
  • 81% of all travel businesses’ work is helping customers with COVID-impacted travel – there is still $4 Billion in refunds and credits which travel agents are working to repatriate from international airlines, hotels and tour operators on behalf of Australian consumers on top of the $6 Billion already secured;
  • 43% believe they are unlikely to return to profit until 2023.

AFTA Chair Tom Manwaring:

“Our sector which relies almost entirely on international travel slammed to a shut in February last year. Nine out of ten travel businesses have been surviving on a decline in revenue of 90% since then and most businesses have experienced at least a 70% decline.”

“Without ongoing support, our sector will be decimated, leaving Australian consumers with nowhere to turn to assist with the estimated $4 Billion in refunds from global airlines, hotels and tour operators. Collapse of our sector will also leave the country without the skill set to support the COVID minefield of travel once the international border is liberated.”

“Without tailored support we will see 8 in 10 people still working in travel out of a job, and 3 in 10 businesses having to close with a further 52% uncertain about their future. We all understand the urgency and critical nature of resolving this.”

AFTA CEO Darren Rudd:
“We are grateful that the Federal Government has heard and acted on our increasingly desperate pleas that ongoing support is critical. We look forward to continuing to work closely with the Morrison-McCormack Government on the details of implementation so that this historic support goes to those travel businesses who most need help.”

“The ongoing refinement of the COVID-19 support package to ensure equitable distribution of funds across the breadth of our sector is continuing as a priority and AFTA will keep on working daily with Austrade to make sure support gets to where it is so desperately needed. This is our major priority.”


Media Contact: LJ Loch 0488038555 or

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.

Australian travel agencies have been the hardest hit by the COVID-19 pandemic. These are the facts:

  • 70% of international travel in Australia is booked through travel agents keeping money in Australia and generating taxes to benefit the Australian economy
  • Prior to COVID, the industry has experienced year on year growth of 11% and maintained growth of 7.25% over the past five years
  • In 2018-19, Australians spent over $46 Billion on international travel, representing the largest import sector of the Australian economy
  • Each year travel agents collect taxes worth $1 Billion and contribute $28 Billion nationally to the economy
  • 71% of the sector are women
  • These are predominantly independently owned small businesses
  • Travel agents have successfully repatriated $6 Billion in refunds and credits from overseas airlines, hotels and tour operators for Australian consumers – there is still $4 Billion outstanding. They have been doing this time consuming and frustrating work for free while having to continue to fund operating costs including GDS fees and insurances to allow this to happen.