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Crunch Time: AFTA Intensifies Campaign For Ongoing Federal Support

Just four weeks out from the end of JobKeeper on March 28, the travel industry at large still has no update nor certainty as to if and when it will receive any further federal support to help see it through to international borders reopening.

Just four weeks out from the end of JobKeeper on March 28, the travel industry at large still has no update nor certainty as to if and when it will receive any further federal support to help see it through to international borders reopening.

As the saying goes “Hope is not a strategy”.

But given there are only four weeks to go until the end of JobKeeper and still, there is no strategy forthcoming from the federal government, it is completely understandable for the industry to be feeling an enormous sense of helplessness, frustration and anger at what is still a huge unknown post-March 28.

Thankfully, so many industry bodies and individuals in the travel industry are continuing the fight to campaign hard for ongoing federal government support including the evolution of JobKeeper for the travel sector.

The Australian Federation of Travel Agents (AFTA) has today shared the interim results of its recent Travelsectorkeeper survey with Tourism Minister the Hon Dan Tehan as well as briefing key Government Members ahead of the Liberal and National Party Rooms.

Of the 1513 entity survey respondents as at Saturday 20 February 2021:

  • 67% are SME (small-medium enterprise) retail leisure agencies;
  • 94% are dealing with a decline in revenue of 90% (with 99% experiencing at least a 70% decline);
  • 80% of the workforce of travel agents businesses are women;
  • 81% of all travel businesses’ work is helping customers with COVID-impacted travel;
  • 43% believe they are unlikely to return to profit until 2023.

AFTA’s ask which is also reinforced in the pre-Budget submission continues to be:

  • The evolution and extension of JobKeeper in a tailored way until one quarter after the international border is liberated;
  • The allocation of any funds outstanding from the first round of the COVID-19 Consumer Travel Support Program via a second program round with an amended payment scale to address issues already identified.

AFTA is working closely with other bodies including CATO, CLIA, TTF, BCA, and ACCI to keep the pressure on and ensure the need for sector support remains at the forefront of political deliberations.

This is being achieved through a combination of direct advocacy at a Ministerial, MP, Senator and local level and via strategic media engagement.

Speaking about the current status of the campaigning, AFTA CEO Darren Rudd said: “The travel sector is grateful for Government support to date via the Grants Support Program but in this our darkest period, we need ongoing support in a renamed, repurposed JobKeeper equivalent for our sector.”

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“The interim survey results reveal some distressing statistics and highlight the critical need for ongoing help. Without it, when JobKeeper ends on March 28, we will see 8 in 10 people still working in travel out of a job, and 3 in 10 businesses having to close with a further 52% uncertain about their future.”

Darren Rudd, AFTA CEO

Mr Rudd continued: “Without this, our sector will be disseminated, leaving Australian consumers with nowhere to turn to assist with the estimated $4 billion in refunds from global airlines, hotels and tour operators. The collapse of our sector will also leave the country without the skill set to support the COVID minefield of travel once the international border is liberated.” He said.

In case anyone needs reminding, it’s crucial to note that Australian travel agencies have been the hardest hit by the COVID-19 pandemic.

These are the facts:

  • 70% of international travel in Australia is booked through travel agents keeping money in Australia and generating taxes to benefit the Australian economy.
  • Prior to COVID, the industry has experienced year on year growth of 11% and maintained growth of 7.25% over the past five years.
  • In 2018-19, Australians spent over $46 Billion on international travel, representing the largest import sector of the Australian economy
  • Each year travel agents collect taxes worth $1 billion and contribute $28 billion nationally to the economy.
  • These are predominantly independently owned small businesses.
  • Travel agents have successfully repatriated $6 billion in refunds and credits from overseas airlines, hotels and tour operators for Australian consumers – there is still $4 billion outstanding.
  • They have been doing this time consuming and frustrating work for free while having to continue to fund operating costs including GDS fees and insurances to allow this to happen.

There is simply no more time to lose. The travel industry needs a resolution on support post JobKeeper now.

As Bill Shorten so frankly put it last week: “How is it that we can be so cruel to our travel agents? If the government is going to continue JobKeeper after March 28, just tell people, just tell people now. If you’re not going to, then you need to wake up to yourself.”

Find out more: www.afta.com.au