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Ring out the bells! $128 million Chrissie present for agents

December 2, 2020 Headline News 1 Comment

In a dramatic breakthrough after months of campaigning by AFTA and travel agency groups, the Morrison Government agreed yesterday to provide a one-off payment in cash grants, to a total of $128 million, to help travel agents “in recognition that many continue to work hard, processing consumer refunds, whilst unable to trade due to the Covid-19 pandemic”.

Federal Tourism Minister Simon Birmingham said most travel agents faced the “unique circumstance” of having to refund existing bookings at the same time as they manage their operating models in the face of ongoing uncertainty about international travel.

“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,” Birmingham said.

Under the $128 million scheme, eligible travel agents with a turnover of between $50,000 and $20 million a year will be able to apply for the one-off payment.

Payments will be scaled, with a minimum payment of $1500 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.

The decision comes after months of intense lobbying by the Australian Federation of Travel Agents (AFTA), spearheaded by chief executive Darren Rudd and chairman Tom Manwaring.

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 expected later this week.

Rudd welcomed the decision, saying AFTA was “delighted that the Morrison Government has acknowledged the unique and challenging circumstances that travel agents have been confronted with.

“This package will help to ensure the sector’s sustainability to assist Australian travellers with the new world of CovidSafe travel.”

Agents were equally happy at the news.

Leonie Clay, co-owner of My Travel Expert, a Helloworld agency in Nowra, said the payment breakthrough was very welcome. Clay praised AFTA’s efforts to achieve the outcome and mentioned also that business was picking up. She told ABC Radio her team had been busy over the past couple of days booking domestic travel, with Norfolk Island among ‘hot’ destinations. Clay also noted that more and more clients were dropping in to ask “When can we travel again?”

AFTA chairman Tom Manwaring

Clay said many of her clients were keen to travel internationally. They were eagerly awaiting the arrival of a vaccine and would take it as soon as it was available, so they could get travelling again.

Rudd declared: “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 4000 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 and we are incredibly grateful to Prime Minister Scott Morrison, Treasurer Josh Frydenberg, and Tourism Minister Scott Birmingham.

AFTA chief executive Darren Rudd

“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 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.

“Sincere thanks to every single parliamentarian who took our cause to government. I would also like to thank Small Business Commissioner, Kate Carnell and her team for their valuable work, the work of CATO and 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.”

In October, AFTA pointed out that travel agents were the first hit and would be the last to recover, with recovery only possible once international travel resumed and normalised.

“Until this happens,” AFTA said at that time, “the sector is asking for the first time for Government support in the form of a $125 million federal support package plus State and Territory Government support which AFTA will continue to lobby on.”

They now have their federal package.

Written by Peter Needham

Currently there is "1 comment" on this Article:

  1. Mike Hatton says:

    Congratulations Darren Rudd. Dogged determination combined with quiet and focused diplomacy has won the day. This is a major achievement for AFTA the like of which has not been seen before as government has never allocated such funds to our industry in the past. Well done and thank you to you and the AFTA team for a superb job and outcome.

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