The Australian Federation of Travel Agents (AFTA) is continuing to keep the pressure on for ongoing tailored government support of travel agents, travel wholesalers and tour operators.
AFTA chief executive Darren Rudd is in Canberra this week – the first sitting week of Parliament for the year – to meet with a range of Cabinet Ministers, including Tourism Minister Dan Tehan, and other key influencers.
Rudd said working with the government to refine the implementation of the COVID-19 Consumer Travel Support Program , which has already paid out more than $33 million to agents, remained an “absolute key priority”.
“We are acutely aware of our members’ concerns across a range of areas, including the policy construct, the amounts within tiering levels and structural imbalance based on the ambiguity of the G1 BAS statement definition,” he said.
“Additionally, an extension of a version of JobKeeper for our sector is also high on the agenda for discussion in Canberra this week, following on from our messaging across national TV, print and radio last week.
“We appreciate that JobKeeper may take on a new name and form, but the underlying intention of ensuring that travel agents can continue to repatriate the outstanding $4 billion in consumer travel funds, remains unchanged.
“It’s about providing a lifeline to help businesses survive until borders are liberated.”
Last month, the Minister for Tourism revealed that the government was considering a potential post-JobKeeper support package for the tourism industry.
Prime Minister Scott Morrison didn’t rule out further support for the travel industry when asked about it in January. However, he said it was “too early to make those calls”.
Meanwhile, Treasurer Josh Frydenberg reportedly rejected calls to extend JobKeeper for the hospitality sector, and then followed up over the weekend by ruling out an extension to JobKeeper beyond 31 March.
“It was always a temporary program,” he told the ABC’s Insiders host, David Speers.
“More than $80 billion is already out the door, and it’s helped to support more than 3.5 million Australians.”
The Treasurer also hit back at Queensland Premier Annastacia Palaszczuk’s call to extend JobKeeper for hard-done sectors like tourism.
“I saw Annastacia Palaszczuk cheekily, to put it lightly, suggest that we extend JobKeeper,” Frydenberg said on Insiders.
“The Morrison government has delivered more than three times the amount of money to Queenslanders than the Palaszczuk government has even committed to. So, I’d welcome the state government in Queensland making more of a commitment.”
AFTA and ACCC continue to collaborate
The federation is also continuing to work closely with regulatory bodies such as the Australian Competition & Consumer Commission (ACCC).
As a result, the ACCC updated its website late last year to help manage consumer expectations around COVID-related travel restrictions.
“AFTA has been collaborating with the ACCC in a more purposeful and constructive way than ever before, and the efforts of this cooperation is resulting in more immediate and real benefit,” Rudd said.
AFTA’s boss added that leveraging mainstream media to ensure agents remain front and centre of political discussions and the overall narrative was also central to the federation’s lobbying efforts.
Featured image source: iStock/Mlenny