Concerning stats released by the Australian Bureau of Statistics (ABS) only hint at the current and future employment carnage across travel agencies, according to the Australian Federation of Travel Agents (AFTA).
The ABS released a new set of statistics on Thursday outlining the heavier impact of COVID-19 and the January bushfires had on the travel industry compared with the overall economy.
The data comes from the Tourism Satellite Account: tourism labour statistics, which track the health of the tourism sector over the year to March 2020 and capture the impact of the crises.
It shows that the impact of the bushfires and the beginning of COVID-19 alone cost the sector 21,900 jobs – 74 per cent of which were full-time positions. This is the largest-ever fall recorded by the ABS since tracking of tourism jobs began in 2004.
The number of filled jobs in the tourism industry fell three per cent between March 2019 and March 2020, while economy-wide filled jobs grew by 1.7 per cent
AFTA chief executive Darren Rudd said that, prior to the COVID-19 pandemic, travel agents operated close to 3,000 locations nationally and employed 40,000 Australians.
A recent AFTA member survey showed 98 per cent of AFTA’s member travel agents have seen revenues drop by 90 per cent and more as a result of the pandemic.
“These ABS quarterly stats reflect the fact that tourism has been harder hit than the wider economy,” Rudd said.
“However, we know from our member agents that while JobKeeper has been a very welcome lifeline to keep travel consultants working, this situation has already worsened significantly since March.
“AFTA continues to work closely and collaboratively with government and across the business community to find the best path forward that will allow things to start returning to normal while accommodating the necessary health measures.”
On top of pushing for additional support, AFTA is campaigning for the introduction of travel bubbles.
“Only three countries in the world have completely closed their borders: India, New Zealand and Australia,” Rudd said.
“While we understand the health rationale, we need to find a way forward by working together to end this commercial and cultural discrimination and get us travelling again.”