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Industry pleads for release of $74m in unallocated Government grants

  • A third of Government’s $258 million COVID-19 Consumer Travel Support Program remains unspent
  • AFTA, CATO, ATEC plead for immediate release of funds to support a decimated sector which won’t see revenue return before late 2022
  • Support is vital for inbound and outbound market recovery

2 February 2022: Peak Industry bodies the Australian Federation of Travel Agents (AFTA), Australian Tourism Export Council (ATEC), and Council of Australian Tour Operators (CATO) are pleading for the Federal Government to immediately release the remaining $74 million approved to support the sector which has so far not been spent.

At least a third of the funding allocated by the Federal Government as part of the $258 million COVID-19 Consumer Travel Support Program remains unspent according to information revealed during Senate Estimates for Foreign Affairs, Defence and Trade Legislation.

This is despite travel businesses across the sector desperately needing support.

The Facts

  • Pre-COVID, 70% of all international bookings in Australia were made through travel agents – this is on the rise with 16% of all new enquiries coming from those using a travel professional for the first time
  • Australia’s travel industry has had revenue falls of 90%+ since the imposition of the international travel ban, more than 700 days ago
  • Up to $6 billion worth of outbound credits for COVID-impacted travel in the system which we are managing on behalf of Australians
  • 52% of bookings are reusing existing credits from COVID-impacted travel
  • On average 51% of all travel businesses’ work is assisting client using these credits
  • The travel sector has lost more than a third of its skilled workforce with many changing industries or moving locations.
  • Inbound Tour Operators have had no business but will need to invest heavily to reposition Australia for international tourists.
  • Bookings finalised today will not convert to revenue for ITO businesses until late this year leaving a significant cash-flow gap in the meantime.
  • Tourism suppliers are currently operating at 50% or less capacity and ITOs at 30% or less compared to 2019

Quotes attributable to all CEO’s

“We are pleading with the Federal Government to get the outstanding $74 million already approved to support Australia’s Travel Sector to those people and businesses that urgently need support to keep supporting Australians especially as international travel starts to pick up.”

“These are businesses who have been living with revenue falls of 90%+ for 700 days since COVID first arrived in Australia, who won’t actually be paid until after travel happens, and who continue to do everything possible to support travelling Australians.

Quotes attributable to AFTA CEO Dean Long

“There have never been businesses more needing of support and to be told as part of the Grant Process that being 90% down in revenue was not enough to be eligible for the full support package is down right abhorrent.”

“There’s up to $6 billion in credits belonging to Australians in the system right now which we are managing on behalf of clients. We need this support to keep supporting Australians.”

“There were problems with the roll-out of the COVID-19 Consumer Travel Support Program complicated by a lack of understanding of the Travel Sector and the Travel payment eco-system. AFTA has continued to work closely with Austrade and Government to ensure those businesses that should have been eligible received the support.”

Quotes attributable to CATO CEO Brett Jardine

“Despite vaccine rates rapidly increasing, signifying the resumption of international travel is within sight – we are not out of the woods yet. Our industry doesn’t have time for election promises, what we need is immediate financial support to enable recovery.”

“For many, a lack of income over the last two years combined with employee reduction is a difficult starting point for the anticipated pent up travel demand and will place a lot of pressure on businesses, at a time when they need to re-invest.”

“Australian Tour Operators have lead the supply sector in supporting Australian Agents and consumers through the last two years and even with international borders open, are still more than 90% down on pre-COVID revenue.”

Quotes from Peter Shelley, Managing Director Australian Tourism Export Council (ATEC)

“The tourism export industry has lost around $4 bn a month since 2020 and thousands of skilled staff. Businesses are now looking to a restart which will require investment in marketing and bringing product and services up to speed.

“For those tourism exporters who have survived this far, the ability to ramp up is severely limited due to the lack of skilled staff and operating capital, with less capacity to convert high levels of customer inquiries to bookings.

“On behalf of every inbound tourism business in Australia, ATEC is calling on the Government to support the industry as it gets back on its feet. We were the first industry to be hit by the pandemic and we will be the last to recover."
“On behalf of every inbound tourism business in Australia, ATEC is calling on the Government to support the industry as it gets back on its feet. We were the first industry to be hit by the pandemic and we will be the last to recover.”

Media Contacts:

AFTA LJ Loch 0488038555 lj.loch@afta.com.au

CATO Brett Jardine bjardine@cato.travel

ATEC Julie Smith 0421 029353 julie@wordsmithmedia.com.au