The impact of the COVID-19 outbreak on the travel industry has been immediate and extensive, with agents working around the clock to assist clients whose travel plans have been affected by the ever-evolving measures being put in place to mitigate the spread of the virus.
And, despite the federal government recently announcing a financial stimulus package which includes tax breaks for small- and medium-sized businesses to assist in meeting wage costs, this assistance is irrelevant for many home-based travel advisors who are sole traders, according to TravelManagers chief operating officer Grant Campbell (pictured above).
“Our 600-plus personal travel managers are among the many sole traders in the travel industry who have seen their livelihoods disappear literally overnight, with no foreseeable end to the current crisis,” he said.
“Our national partnership office is providing PTMs with all possible practical support in getting through this, but there is a very real and urgent need for financial relief from the federal government.”
With this in mind, TravelManagers has drafted a letter for its agents to send to both their local MP and their state senators in Canberra, to draw their attention to the issue and enlist their support.
“Receiving federal relief from financial difficulty while coronavirus is impacting the travel and tourism market would go a long way to alleviating the high levels of anxiety and stress our PTMs are currently experiencing,” Campbell explained.
“Whilst the relief measures that have been announced so far are well-intended, they completely overlook the unique situation of sole-trader travel professionals.”
Campbell believes other home-based travel brands and individual sole traders will follow TravelManagers’ lead in calling for federal support and hopes they will adapt its letter to appeal to their own parliamentary representatives.
He also noted that the industry has a strong history of banding together in times of crisis.
“This is not the first time we have been hit with a major challenge, and from 9/11 to SARS, each time the industry has worked collaboratively for the benefit of our clients and our people,” he said.
“Coronavirus represents an unprecedented level of complexity and uncertainty, and we are hopeful that the federal government, in recognising this, will move to soften the blow.”
You can read the letter drafted by TravelManagers in full below:
Dear [INSERT MP’S NAME]
My name is [INSERT NAME] and I am a self-employed personal travel manager with TravelManagers Australia Pty Limited.
While I don’t need to bring to your attention the effect the coronavirus is having on businesses, I should advise that no sector is more affected than the retail travel industry’s sole traders. As a self-employed travel retailer, running my own home-based travel agency, my income has effectively disappeared overnight.
In addition to this, I am working relentlessly to assist travellers in getting back home and cancelling or rearranging their travel plans. Because of the way our industry operates, I am not remunerated for the hundreds of additional hours I have had to work in assisting clients with cancellations, changes to travel arrangements and securing refunds where possible. I’m sure you can appreciate how stressful this situation is for me, my family and for our business sector.
Following the positive steps the Australian government has taken with the introduction of the coronavirus stimulation package, I was expecting all segments of the travel and tourism industry, and especially sole traders, to receive temporary relief. However, I am disappointed to learn there is absolutely no assistance for me, or the thousands of sole traders like me, until business gets back to normal and I can recommence earning a living.
Whilst the coronavirus is having an impact on many, if not all, sectors of the Australian community, individual sole traders – particularly those in the travel and tourism sector – need urgent assistance right now in paying bills, putting food on the table for our families and keeping our heads above water until we are able to restart trading.
I’m requesting that you lobby the Treasurer and Prime Minister to provide assistance specifically targeted to sole traders running their own travel agency businesses. Sole traders have been contributing significantly to the economy for decades, and we now need significant assistance to tide us over until our industry is back on its feet.