Travel agents in Australia struggling to make ends meet due to the COVID-19 pandemic have been thrown a $128 million lifeline by the Morrison Government.
Federal Tourism Minister Simon Birmingham revealed the one-off travel agent COVID-19 payment on 1 December. It’s designed to assist travel advisors with their ongoing work processing existing client refunds while international travel remains in limbo for the foreseeable future.
“This one-off payment recognises that travel agents are operating in an exceptional set of circumstances where most are having to refund last year’s income while continuing to work with no additional income,” Minister Birmingham said.
“Providing further assistance to travel agents in the current environment will help keep them afloat at a time when they are continuing to hold travel credits for consumers who have previously cancelled travel.
“This one-off payment is in addition to our significant economic support for the tourism and travel industry during the COVID-19 pandemic which continues to assist hundreds of thousands of tourism businesses across Australia,” Minister Birmingham said.
Travel agents with a turnover of between $50,000 and $20 million a year will be eligible for the $128 million scheme.
The travel agent COVID-19 payment will be scaled, with a minimum payment of $1,500 for a business with a turnover of $50,000 up to a maximum payment of $100,000 for a business with a turnover of $20 million.
Travel agent COVID-19 payment: AFTA’s response
In a statement, the Australian Federation of Travel Agents said the funding “recognised the travel sector and its critical importance to the Australian economy and public”.
“This is historic in its nature, size and the speed with which we are working with agencies across government to deliver the funds to the sector.”
AFTA is working with government to make available the web-based vehicle that eligible parties will use to access the grants. The aim is to ensure intended recipients get paid this month. Specific details of the support package are coming this week.
Darren Rudd, AFTA’s CEO, welcomed the financial support package.
“This is a historic day for Australia’s travel industry. We are thrilled to see that the government recognises the need for sector-specific support and we welcome the announcement of tailored support for Australia’s 4,000 travel agents, tour operators, wholesalers and the 40,000 people we employ and the many, many consumers our members support.
“Travel agents have been amongst the hardest hit given their reliance on international travel. All have experienced revenue drops of close to 100% with no substantive income on the horizon until international travel returns. To say this support package is a financial lifeline is a significant understatement. We simply couldn’t ask for a better outcome from government,” Rudd added.
“It’s been an incredibly challenging year for everyone in our sector but now we move into a new period – one of transformation, consolidation and growth.”
“This milestone is the result of many people working together during this difficult time, including our travel agents, who have been going above and beyond to do what they can to to process travel credits and refunds for Australians over the past ten months, despite having to return the commissions earned on these sales.
“Today is the result of a tremendous, combined effort that saw travel agents around Australia email, call and meet with their local parliamentarians to make sure they understood the need for tailored support. This is democracy in its best and purest form.”
Rudd thanked Small Business Commissioner, Kate Carnell and her team for their work behind the scenes, and that of CATO, CLIA and the wider travel and tourism sector.
“AFTA will continue to work with members, industry stakeholders, government, and media so that together we can rebuild our sector to its former brilliance,” Rudd concluded.
Lead image credit: Dominika Roseclay from Pexels