It is very rare that you meet someone with the passion of Tom Manwaring, who is leading the charge to keep Australia’s travel agents in business, with Tom an industry icon who I reckon, along with many of us should be retired.

Now though, not only is he CEO and Co-Owner of Express Travel Group, but he put his hand up some time ago and some might say taking on a poisoned chalice, to be Chair of the Australian Federation of Travel Agents, especially bearing in mind the challenges, resignations, and more the organisation and the world of travel agents have experienced, in the last 18 month or so.

Nevertheless, Tom has worked incredibly hard and continues to do so, applying his long-standing and extensive skills, knowledge, and passion to do what he can, to date successfully, raising substantial government support and funding to rescue, help and keep in business, at least the travel agents that are left in the sector after the massive attrition of travel agencies that has taken place during the COVID-19 pandemic.

Tom recently said publicly that more support is desperately needed for the travel sector which has been in hard lockdown since March 2020, and with 15,000 jobs already gone in Australia’s travel sector, he has warned that ongoing and wider Government support until international travel normalises is critical to protect jobs and businesses so that the travel sector can continue to support consumers.

He added that that prior to COVID, the industry experienced year on year growth of 11% and maintained growth of 7.25% over the past five years, with in 2018-19, Australians spent over $46 Billion on international travel, representing the largest import sector of the Australian economy.

An amazing 70% of this international travel was booked through Australian travel agents and each year travel agents collect taxes worth $1 billion and contribute $28 billion nationally to the economy.

Tom said, “Our sector has been in hard lockdown for 18 months now since the international travel ban was imposed with revenue falls of 90% plus across almost all travel agents and businesses from the moment the international travel ban was imposed”, adding, “We have already lost a third of our sector and we need support for the remaining 25,000 jobs and 3,000 travel agencies and businesses”

He told me, “We are very grateful for the Federal Government’s COVID-19 Consumer Travel Support Program which has seen $258 million in support for Australian travel and tourism businesses including travel agents, but we need the support from Rounds 1 and 2 of the grants program to flow more quickly to those eligible agents and, given the ongoing pause in outbound travel, but, we need this support extended and supplemented urgently across the entire travel sector”, adding, “We were the first hit and will be the last to recover with that only possible after international travel resumes” and stressing, “We urge all Australians to get vaccinated as soon as possible.”

He added, “Australia’s travel agents are a critical support for consumers navigating COVID lockdowns and border shutdowns”, adding, “They have successfully secured $8 billion worth of credits and refunds for COVID-impacted travel from suppliers (hotels, airlines, tour operators, cruise lines, etc) on behalf of their customers with $2 billion still outstanding”, and, “As so many consumers have discovered, travel agents are essential given the challenges of COVID” and vitally importantly, “Without a travel agent, you really are on your own.”

Check out my “must watch” and very revealing chat with Tom by clicking on the video below: –

A report and interview by John Alwyn-Jones, Special Correspondent, Travel and Tourism, Global Travel Media.