Major Australian travel retailer Helloworld (ASX: HLO) says it paid out out more than $800 million in full or partial refunds to customers from its corporate, wholesale and ticketing businesses in Australia and New Zealand up to June 30, 2020, due to the impact of COVId-19 on travel.

It says 90 per cent of outstanding refunds have been processed and 60 per cent paid out.

“HLO responded quickly to the events of the last six months and was able to reduce monthly net operating cashj outflows to circa $2 million excluding one-off costs from April 2020 on wards,” the company said in its annual results announcement.

“The Company has carefully managed its expenses and worked tirelessly to process cancellations and return monies and/or travel credits to clients both via Agencies and directly from suppliers around the world.

“We have ticket turnaround down to under seven weeks and wholesale and cruise refunds under control.”

Helloworld says staff numbers were cut by 35% across Australia, New Zealand, Fiji and India. Remaining personnel are working reduced hours or on stand-down.

“Currently HLO has 730 personnel working in Australia, the vast majority on reduced hours, 11o in New Zealand, 34 in Mumbai and Nadi with another 375 stood down in Australia and other locations.”

“HLO will continue to receive further subsidies for retained employees in Australia via the JobKeeper program, which has been extended to March 2021.

“At current staffing levels the company expects to receive a net benefit of $20 million in additional subsidies.”

In financial terms, the 19/20 financial year has been a disaster for HLO, which lost $70 million during the period.

It’s impossible to have any clear sense of what is to come, the company says.

“What we can say is that we will continue to process the billion of dollars of refunds and credits due to customers for pre-booked, pre-paid travel arrangements, continue to support our customers, continue to help our travel agents, continue support our personnel and we will be there for our inbound customers.”


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