WA travel agents are urging the state’s tourism minister to help them survive COVID-19 until the industry begins to recover next year.
Agents across Western Australia are calling for Paul Papalia to introduce a travel industry-specific survival grant of between $5,000 and $25,000 through to June 2021.
The grant would be on a scaled basis for agencies with a 50 per cent or greater downturn, with current downturns ranging from 90 to 100 per cent for agents.
According to the Australian Federation of Travel Agents (AFTA), over 70 per cent of Western Australian agencies are owner-operated small businesses with extremely high female representation.
AFTA also noted that the industry contributes approximately $2 billion annually to the state economy and employs 3,500 people, and that agents in WA were experiencing boom conditions prior to COVID-19 restrictions.
With COVID-19 continuing to have a catastrophic impact on agents, their teams, businesses and families, AFTA said this week is the last chance WA agents have to call for aid before the state’s politicians take their one-month winter break until August.
“Travel agents play a critical role in keeping the wheels of West Australia’s economy turning and providing critical employment opportunities, including in regional communities,” AFTA chair Tom Manwaring said.
“However, without tailored government support while we get back on our feet, the future is bleak.”
“Travel agents are resilient and we know we will get through this just as we have with other major challenges. We know that our customers will keep on supporting us because COVID has actually reinforced the value of a travel agent.
“But we need the WA government to step in and step up to support local travel agents and their businesses so that they can get through this.”
Christine Ross, who owns Attadale Travel and has five employees currently on JobKeeper, said her business is fighting to survive.
“Small travel businesses like mine were the first impacted by the crisis and are currently fighting to survive each day and will be the last to resume normal trading. We’re not asking for a handout, but a hand up to survive,” she said.
“We have millions of dollars of cancellations to manage and hundreds of clients to help and can’t just hibernate. We’re working fulltime with zero business income in an environment unseen previously.
“We are a strong and resilient industry that regularly deals with downturns of 30 per cent-plus due to conditions outside our control such as terrorism and natural disasters, and we have managed those with no financial assistance in the past.
“But we are now on our knees at 90 per cent to 100 per cent for months on end, with a simple ask that our state government support our industry now like it has so many others impacted by this crisis.
“A relatively small investment of $5 million from the state government would preserve our small businesses and enable us to survive until we can get back to supporting the employees who are relying on us, our fellow travel operators and the state economy.”
Featured image: Facebook/Paul Papalia