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Crunch Time: AFTA says agents are in a worse situation than last year

The Australian Federation of Travel Agents (AFTA) has highlighted the increasingly urgent need for widespread support for the travel sector given the immediate and flow-on impacts of the Sydney lockdown.

The Australian Federation of Travel Agents (AFTA) has highlighted the increasingly urgent need for widespread support for the travel sector given the immediate and flow-on impacts of the Sydney lockdown.

As a result of COVID restrictions in Greater Sydney and wider NSW, state and territory borders, and the Trans Tasman bubble, booking opportunities are rapidly closing with significant ramifications for travel agents and businesses.

“The reality is that with borders slamming shut domestically and the Trans Tasman bubble closed more often than it’s open, Australia’s travel agents and businesses are in a worse situation than we were this time last year,” said AFTA chair, Tom Manwaring.

“Each and every border closer and travel restriction kneecaps consumer confidence not just in travelling but also in booking. For travel agents, it also means a mountain of work at a time when income is almost non-existent and has been for 18 months. Consumers need us more than ever to support them through the cancellation maze.

An estimated 15,000 jobs have already been lost in Australia’s travel sector in the last 18 months, with recovery only possible with the resumption of international travel for most Australians, estimated not to be until at least mid-2022.

“We need more support, and we need it now for all those businesses impacted by these restrictions.” he continued.

AFTA says it is continuing to work closely with Austrade and the Federal Government to accelerate and support the distribution of the $258 Million in support through the COVID-2019 Consumer Travel Support Program to the eligible small and medium agencies; however, more support for the entire sector is needed.

The government support program, JobKeeper ended on March 28, 2021, which led to a further number of job losses, stand downs and business closures as a result.

“We continue to ask Austrade for more haste in deploying the much-needed funds from Consumer-19 Travel Support Program to the eligible small and medium travel agencies in crisis,” said Mr Manwaring.

Consumer Travel Support Program Round One Update 

  • 3,859 claims have been received and 106 are currently under review.
  • 3,154 payments have been made to date (8 July 2021) totalling $103 million.

Consumer Travel Support Program Round Two Update

  • 1,206 payments have been made to date (8 July 2021) totalling $25.2 million.
  • Austrade is currently responding to 174 emails sent to [email protected]u

To date (as of 8 July 2021), a total of 1,015 financial verifications have been referred to Deloitte for applicants with over $500,000 in turnover. 160 verifications are now complete and have been referred to Services Australia. Deloitte has issued log-in details to 1,009 applicants for access to the online Halo platform and continues to issue these requests as they are received.