“We need more support, and we need it now”: AFTA’s urgent warning to Austrade

Piggy bank with Face Mask, Financial crisis and market crash due to virus spread.

The Australian Federation of Travel Agents (AFTA) has highlighted the increasingly urgent need for widespread support for the travel sector due to the immediate and flow-on impacts of the Greater Sydney lockdown.

As a result of the COVID restrictions in Greater Sydney and wider NSW, state and territory borders, as well as the trans-Tasman Safe Travel Zone, are rapidly closing, with significant ramifications for agents and businesses, according to AFTA.

An estimated 15,000 jobs have already been lost in Australia’s travel sector, with recovery only possible with the resumption of international travel for most.

AFTA is continuing to work closely with Austrade and the federal government to accelerate and support the distribution of the $258 million in support through the COVID-19 Consumer Travel Support Program to eligible small- and medium-sized agencies.

According to Austrade, round one of the program has seen 3,859 claims received, with 106 currently under review. A total of 3,154 payments have been made to date (8 July 2021) totalling $103 million.

Round two has seen 1,206 payments made to date (8 July 2021) totalling $25.2 million, and Austrade is currently responding to 174 emails.

As of 8 July 2021, a total of 1,015 financial verifications have been referred to Deloitte for program applicants with over $500,000 in turnover, and 160 verifications are now complete and have been referred to Services Australia.

Deloitte has issued log-in details to 1,009 applicants for access to the online Halo platform and is continuing to issue these requests as they are received.

However, despite the progress of the COVID-19 Consumer Travel Support Program, AFTA chair Ton Manwaring said more support for the entire sector is needed.

“The reality is that with borders slamming shut domestically and the trans-Tasman Safe Travel Zone closed more often than it’s open, Australia’s travel agents and businesses are in a worse situation than we were this time last year,” he said.

“Each and every border closer and travel restriction kneecaps consumer confidence not just in travelling, but also in booking. For travel agents, it also means a mountain of work at a time when income is almost non-existent and has been for 18 months.

“Consumers need us more than ever to support them through the cancellation maze.”

“We need more support, and we need it now for all those businesses impacted by these restrictions.

“We continue to ask Austrade for more haste in deploying the much-needed funds from Consumer Travel Support Program to the eligible small and medium travel agencies in crisis.”

Featured image source: iStock.com/AlenaPaulus

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