The Travel Corporation has announced it will be pausing all Australian group touring departures across its portfolio of brands until 1 December 2021. The decision comes in response to continued uncertainty surrounding domestic borders and travel limitations due to COVID-19.
Brands impacted by the move include AAT Kings Guided Holidays (First Choice and Best Buys), Contiki, Trafalgar, Insight Vacations and Inspiring Journeys. AAT Kings Day Tours and Short Breaks programs in the Northern Territory will however continue to operate in the meantime.
In a statement, David Hosking, CEO of The Travel Corporation Australia, said TTC’s reservations, sales and groups and charter teams “remain committed to working closely with travel agency partners and guests to realise their travel plans beyond 1 December 2021.”
“The group continues to see strong bookings for 2022 and beyond,” Hosking remarked.
When the touring brands restart from 1 December 2021, TTC Australia and New Zealand will require all eligible travellers and customer-facing team members to be vaccinated for COVID-19 for the same brands.
TTC’s decision to implement mandatory vaccinations follows the same requirements implemented in the United States and Europe.
“We are proud to be taking a positive stance on vaccination requirements for our guests and customer facing team members in Australia and New Zealand. Our aim is to help our guests, agency partners and team transition to what is inevitably going to be the “new normal” in safe travel and help the industry rebound in a sustained way,” Hosking said.
“We have based the date of 1 December 2021 on the 4-stage plan outlined by the Australian Government, the New Zealand Government COVID-19 vaccine plan and the current projected vaccine rollout across Australia and New Zealand reaching a point that creates freedom of movement, while also giving guests and employees a clear path forward. The group also hopes state governments have agreed to a collective approach to managing lockdowns and movement across borders by this time.”
Hosking said that the current operating environment has meant most tours have been impacted by cancellations due to lockdowns and restrictions, meaning those businesses “cannot deliver our usual high standard of guest experience”.
TTC reservation and sales teams will be contacting impacted guests and travel agency partners to discuss the changes. Guests unable to commit to being fully vaccinated prior to travel will be issued a refund.
“Without a doubt, Australia and New Zealand have two of the best travel and tourism industries in the world and we sincerely hope that by 1 December 2021 when vaccination rates have reached 70-80%, we can recommence our Australian group touring operations and support our industry through recovery,” Hosking concluded.
The Travel Corporation also paused operations for a period of time in 2020 due to the pandemic, before restarting full operation last October.