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LIFELINE: Could The $250m Agent Support Package Be (Almost) Here?

Newscorp publications were awash yesterday with the 'exclusive' story that Australian Travel agents could be on the brink of getting the green light on the keenly awaited $250 million in funding to provide a 'bridge back to business' until international borders reopen sometime in 2021.

Newscorp publications were awash yesterday with the ‘exclusive’ story that Australian Travel agents could be on the brink of getting the green light on the keenly awaited $250 million in funding to provide a ‘bridge back to business’ until international borders reopen sometime in 2021.

The Newscorp exclusive ran across all of Murdoch’s major mastheads including the Daily Telegraph, Sunday Mail, The Australian and Brisbane Courier-Mail and stated that “a lifeline will be thrown to travel agents whose businesses have been shattered by the pandemic, with the federal government working on a relief package to support them until international borders reopen.”

The story went on to highlight the recently well documented sad plight of agents and the stark fact that without further support outside of JobKeeper (declining and due to end at the end of March 2021), could see many agents closing their doors altogether.

Detailing The Australia Federation of Travel Agents’ (AFTA) discussions with the government, the story also noted that the requested $250 million support package would take the form of grants for agents to help them get to the other side and be able to trade again once international borders do reopen.

travel-agent
Historical archive shot: Actual in-store customers…

Speaking about the desperate situation for agents, AFTA CEO Darren Rudd was also quoted in the article as saying:

“We are going to have a sector severely hit unless the government provides a small package. When COVID hit in March, $10 billion of bookings were cancelled.”

“It can take a long time to come back. Australian travel agents have basically been working with no income. We will lose half of our agents unless we get support.”

Darren Rudd, AFTA CEO

The story follows on from reported dialogue last week between, Tourism Minister Simon Birmingham, AFTA CEO Darren Rudd and agents in considering what the support package could look like.

And the $250 million question?

When exactly will this government support finally be confirmed and actioned?

While there was no timeframe listed in the story, the suggestion here is that the Liberal flag-waving Newscorp getting an exclusive on this and definitive “a lifeline will be thrown to travel agents” comment would suggest that we are finally getting close to an actual green light here.

The story did, however, include an unhelpful comment from Simon Birmingham that said: “agents had received about $700 million in COVID-19 support payments such as JobKeeper and small business cash payments of up to $100,000 each.”

While the JobKeeper element is correct, Mr Birmingham’s “$100,000 cash payments” quote certainly isn’t and does not help any agents cause when trying to explain to clients or otherwise the stark reality of the situation.

And so the wait continues. But it’s looking more positive at least and the groundswell of the mainstream media focus is intensifying.

Until then, it’s more deep breaths and a huge well done to everyone for their diligence and commitment to rallying the agent cause.

READ: The ABC Becomes Travel Agent’s Friend, Highlighting Desperate Predicament To All

READ: Bill Shorten Becomes Travel Agent Hero After Impassioned Support Speech