The Australian Federation of Travel Agents (AFTA) has written to Prime Minister Scott Morrison welcoming the support for travel agents in NSW and Victoria, but asking for wider support for all agents.
The joint NSW government and Commonwealth JobSaver program has been boosted to give greater support to businesses and individuals impacted by the extended lockdown in Greater Sydney.
JobSaver payments will now be available to businesses in NSW with an annual turnover of between $75,000 and $250 million – up from $50 million – which have experienced a revenue decline of 30 per cent or more.
The maximum weekly payment has also been increased, with employing businesses that maintain their employee headcount now able to receive between $1,500 and $100,000 per week – up from $10,000 – with payments based on 40 per cent of their weekly NSW payroll.
Meanwhile, the new jointly funded package from Victorian and federal governments will deliver an additional $400 million in support to thousands of businesses, with funding to be split 50/50 between the two governments.
The package includes a new $85 million Small Business COVID Hardship Fund and $156 million Business Continuity Fund, as well as delivering support for commercial tenants and landlords.
It will also build on Victorian government support for licenced hospitality and alpine venues, with $70 million for the Licensed Hospitality Venue Fund 2021 and $9.8 million for Alpine Business Support.
However, in a letter addressed to Australia’s Prime Minister, AFTA chair Tom Manwaring reiterated his call for support measures anchored to employment like JobKeeper.
You can read the key passages from his letter below:
I would like to highlight the dire situation faced by many travel agents after the Sydney and Melbourne lockdowns eliminated a significant portion of Australia’s domestic leisure and business travel market.
Without the ability to sell to the domestic market, travel agents are faced with a situation where the product of travel has lost its value and will need assistance to survive.
Even before the resurgence of COVID-19 through the Delta strain, travel agents of all sizes were experiencing revenue declines of over 90 per cent, while simultaneously completing unpaid and gruelling work like processing refunds.
Perhaps an even greater concern is the 15,000 highly skilled workers that have left the sector during the pandemic, representing not only a huge loss for the sector but Australian travellers as well.
Concerningly, many of the businesses which are the largest employers in our sector were not eligible for the COVID-19 Consumer Assistance grant due to the turnover cap. These businesses are predominantly privately held and benefitted greatly from JobKeeper, which allowed them to retain people and skills.
Consumers need travel agents now more than ever in managing cancellations, refunds, and credits and, once international travel resumes, will need them to navigate the confusion of travel requirements and restrictions.
Travel agents have successfully secured an estimated $8 billion in credits and refunds on COVID-impacted travel on behalf of consumers from airlines, cruise liners, hotels and tour operators. There is still $2 billion worth of travel booked through travel agents to be secured.
Fundamentally, travel agents are resilient and hardworking Australian businesses, and if you help support them during this pandemic, they can be one of the cornerstones of Australia’s economic recovery post-COVID-19.
Moving forward, we need Australia’s vaccination rollout done as quickly as possible, as the recent outbreaks in Sydney and Melbourne demonstrate that vaccines are our only way out of this pandemic. The government’s recent commitment to getting all Australians vaccinated by Christmas was a step in the right direction.
Alongside this vaccination goal, a commitment to opening borders once the vaccination target is met would provide Australians with a renewed motivation to go and get vaccinated.
Featured image source: iStock/Natalia Shabasheva