Next round of travel agent support program opens

Globe with a face mask and Piggy Bank

Australian travel agents, inbound tour operators and wholesalers can now apply to access an additional $130 million in support from the federal government.

The second round of the COVID-19 Consumer Travel Support Program opened today, which brings the total direct support for agents to $258 million.

The extra assistance is part of the government’s $1.2 billion tourism and aviation package to support Australia’s tourism businesses and 660,000 workers.

The COVID-19 Consumer Travel Support Program provides eligible agents, inbound tour operators and wholesalers with a one-off payment of up to $100,000.

Key changes under round two of the program include simplifying the assessment and payment process for businesses eligible for a second payment under the program extension, increasing the minimum grant amount from $1,500 to $7,500 and reducing the number of turnover tiers used to calculate payments from 41 to nine.

The changes were adopted after widespread consultation with industry stakeholders including the Australian Federation of Travel Agents (AFTA), the Council of Australian Tour Operators and the Australian Tourism Export Council (ATEC).

“We are very grateful for the government’s allocation of $258 million in support to travel agents so far,” AFTA chair Tom Manwaring said.

“We also appreciate the opportunity to continue to provide feedback on the implementation process and are grateful for Austrade’s ongoing commitment to consultation.

“There is commitment at all levels to getting the money to those agents and businesses who so desperately deserve it. We know that many agents are in an increasingly dire state and we have and will continue to fight for ongoing support.

“Payments for round two will commence from 3 May, whilst the review of appeals on exceptional circumstances is well underway.”

In addition to continuing to lobby federally on the refinement of and an extension to the grants program, Manwaring said AFTA is also pushing for ongoing support for members with an initial focus on the next six months.

“This work is also ongoing at a state and territory level,” he said.

Minister for Trade, Tourism and Investment Dan Tehan said more than 2,800 agents have already received almost $95 million in payments to help them trade, provide refunds and hold credits for Australians unable to travel due to COVID-19.

“We want Australians to book a holiday in Australia this year to support our tourism industry and to book that holiday through a travel agent,” he said.

ATEC managing director Peter Shelley said the industry body was “pleased to work in close partnership with Austrade, alongside like-minded industry associations AFTA and CATO, in making contributions to the policy framework associated with the second tranche of the grants program”.

“Austrade recognises that Australian ITOs operate under different business models, and we have worked with them to help them establish a broad ‘exceptional circumstance’ process that ensure all claims are assessed professionally and fairly,” he said.

Applications for round two of the COVID-19 Consumer Travel Support Program will close on Saturday 12 June. More info can be found here.

[PLEASE NOTE: This article has been updated since publishing to include commentary from the ATEC.]

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