Travel agents’ plea amid ‘minefield’ of cancellations

 

A south west travel agent who has been managing a "minefield" of holiday cancellations for the past eight months and says its time the government lent a hand to the industry left decimated by COVID-19.

Helloworld Travel Riverlink and Orion Springfield owner Sharon Jones said that since February, her staff have seen their jobs flip from booking holidays to processing an unprecedented number of cancellations as the global pandemic stops holiday plans travel in their tracks.

"Basically from then it's been just cancelling everything we've booked and working through a minefield of cancellations," she said.

"It's not an easy situation right now."

She said her business - which was now striving to be there for clients as they await refunds for cancelled trips - had depended on the now slashed JobKeeper funding but said the Federal Government needed lend more of a hand.

Travel agents are calling for government help as they try to deal with the effects of COVID-19 on the industry.
Travel agents are calling for government help as they try to deal with the effects of COVID-19 on the industry.

"JobKeeper's definitely saved my staff," Ms Jones said, adding she hoped the government would restore the full rate of the payment to help pay staff that were working incredible hours as they waded through a litany of complex refund processes.

"(This week's) budget was not kind to us," she said.

She is one of 4000 travel agents - employing 40,000 Aussies - experiencing a never before seen decline in business, and morale.

According to the The Australian Federation of Travel Agents, a $125 million support package is desperately needed by the industry, which had been a growth sector contributing $28 billion annually to the economy before COVID-19 struck.

The industry had been responsible for 70 per cent of international bookings made from Australia and gained some two-thirds of its total turnover value from international air and cruise which was indefinitely interrupted on March 18 and is expected to take a far longer recovery period than that of domestic travel.

"Almost all agents have experienced revenue falls of close to 100 per cent," the federation said, adding that the plummet followed what had been a healthy 11 per cent year on year growth.

"Without tailored support these businesses will start closing.

Helloworld Travel managing director Sharon Jones.
Helloworld Travel managing director Sharon Jones.

"That means job losses, a gap in the market that the internationals will fill. They don't pay taxes or employ locals."

Currently, the federation estimates at least 25 per cent of local travel agencies will close.

Ms Jones urged locals to book their Australian getaway with a travel agent.

"A lot of people can't travel overseas, so they're looking at travelling locals.

"It might just generate a little bit of sales, a bit of business."

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Originally published as Travel agents' call for help amid 'minefield' of cancellations


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