Australian Small Business and Family Business Ombudsman Kate Carnell is helping travel agents ask the government to provide a support package to the industry. destroyed by the COVID-19 pandemic.
Kate Carnell said almost 1. 300 distressed travel agencies held on to a thread while they waited to find out whether the federal government would announce a support package.
« It is clear that these small businesses are in a world of pain and a support package should be announced urgently, » Carnell said.
Travel agents were on the forefront when international travel ceased in March and have since worked to obtain refunds from suppliers, from cruises to airlines, on behalf of their customers.
More than half of travel agencies say their revenues have decreased by more than 100%, according to a survey conducted by the Small Business Ombudsman.
Speaking to SmartCompany, Penny Spencer, director of the Spencer Group, which owns both leisure and business travel agencies, said that COVID-19 has « decimated » the industry.
According to Spencer, travel agents have not received targeted government support, but they have benefited from general support initiatives, including JobKeeper, payroll tax breaks, and rental or loan deferrals.
“JobKeeper has been an amazing lifesaver. It certainly saved my employees, but it didn’t save my business, ”says Spencer.
The Australian Association of Travel Agents is campaigning with the federal government for a $ 250 million package to raise the 4th. 000 travel agencies in the industry and the 40. 000 Australians they employ.
Spencer says the package would obviously bring relief, but she doubts it would help any travel agent survive in the long term.
« We still don’t really know because we don’t know how long the borders will be closed, » says Spencer.
According to Spencer, travel agents are currently working « for nothing » as not only were sales nearly stopped this year, but travel agents spent 2020 repaying last year’s sales.
“During the entire trip, we never had to reimburse everything. So, all of these suppliers and airlines are really having problems with the workload associated with the refund. It was really tough, ”she says.
With restrictions on international travel likely to remain in place for some time, travel agents are hardest hit by the COVID-19 pandemic, so the industry is calling for targeted assistance.
Spencer says when travel resumes everyone will need a travel agent as navigating restrictions in different countries will be complex.
« Travel agents, on the other hand, are really needed, and that’s the sad part [because] we have to survive to get there, » says Spencer.
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Travel Agent, Kate Carnell, Australia
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