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Getting Through COVID-19: WA Travel Agents Plea To Minister Papalia For Support

Travel agents in WA have issued a support plea to Tourism and Small Business Minister Paul Papalia, to help keep their businesses afloat until the tourism industry resets and recovers from the COVID-19 shakeup.

Travel agents in WA have issued a support plea to Tourism and Small Business Minister Paul Papalia, to help keep their businesses afloat until the tourism industry resets and recovers from the COVID-19 shakeup.

With all other Australian states now offering targeted small business recovery grants, WA travel agents are pleading with Tourism and Small Business Minister Paul Papalia to help them survive COVID-19 until the industry begins to recover next year.

Over 70% of WA travel agencies are owner operated small businesses with extremely high female representation. The industry contributes approximately $2Billion annually to the state economy and employs 3,500 people. Agencies in WA were experiencing boom conditions prior to COVID-19 restrictions, with year on year growth.

“Travel agents play a critical role in keeping the wheels of West Australia’s economy turning and providing critical employment opportunities, including in regional communities. However, without tailored government support while we get back on our feet, the future is bleak.”

Tom Manwaring, Chair of AFTA (and a West Australian)

A plea for support

WA agents have a simple ask – a travel industry-specific survival grant of between $5,000-$25,000 through to June 2021.

This grant would be on a scaled basis for agencies with a 50% or greater downturn, with current downturns ranging from 90-100% for agents.

Agents are currently working fulltime with no business income to support West Australian consumers access travel credits and vouchers. The challenges for local consumers are particularly vexed given most airlines, tour companies and cruise companies don’t have offices in WA or Australia so agents are spending hours on the phone for clients and non-clients while juggling multiple refund policy changes.

With COVID-19 continuing to have a catastrophic impact on agents, their teams, businesses and families, this week is the last chance WA travel agents have to call for aid before the state’s politicians take their one month winter break until August.

“Travel agents are resilient and we know we will get through this just as we have with other major challenges. We know that our customers will keep on supporting us because COVID has actually reinforced the value of a travel agent. But, we need the WA Government to step in and step up to support local travel agents and their businesses so that they can get through this.”

Tom Manwaring, Chair of AFTA (and a West Australian)

Christine Ross, Owner of Attadale Travel, with 5 staff on JobKeeper says “small travel businesses like mine were the first impacted by the crisis, are currently fighting to survive each day and will be the last to resume normal trading. We’re not asking for a handout, but a hand up to survive.”

“We have worked through this entire crisis. We have millions of dollars of cancellations to manage and hundreds of clients to help and can’t just hibernate. We’re working fulltime with zero business income in an environment unseen previously. It can take roughly 8 hours to cancel just one booking and with some refunds expected to take up to 9 months, the job is far from over.”

Christine Ross, Attadale Travel

“Our ask is simple – a relatively small investment of $5 million from the State Government would preserve our small businesses and enable us to survive until we can get back to supporting the employees who are relying on us, our fellow travel operators and the state economy,” Ross continues.

READ: Extend JobKeeper Into 2021: The Travel Industry Rallies Government To Act

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