How much do travel agents earn? The answer for many is hardly anything at all. And that was before COVID decimated the industry, reliant as it is on international travel.
This hard fact has been underscored by industry group AFTA, which now says the $128 million Federal Government assistance package for travel agents (which it initially welcomed without reservation) doesn’t help the industry’s numerous battlers, those businesses or individuals with annual turnover of less than $50,000.
AFTA Chairman Tom Manwaring says “few” travel agents actually qualify for support.
“The design of the program has failed in its noble purpose,” he says.
“Many of these small businesses that desperately need support are in fact not eligible, especially at the lower end.
“The reality is that even for those few businesses that actually qualify, the support barely covers two months of costs – and in fact for the lower end businesses, the proposed support equates to just two weeks.”
Manwaring instead appears to want 18 months of sustained government support for the sector.
“Travel agents on current budget assumptions have 18 months from January 1 2021 before they can restore their cashflow,” he says.
“Until international travel returns, the reality is that, without ongoing support, these businesses located across regional and rural Australia as well as in our cities and suburbs can not and will not survive.
“The AFTA Board and team will continue to work with Government at all levels in a constructive and collaborative way to find solutions within the obvious tightening budget constraints.
“We have already raised the need, given the unique circumstances, for additional measures including tailored JobKeeper beyond March.
“The eligibility criteria, entry threshold tests and grant size of this $128M tailored program must change especially at the lower tiers to offer any hope to the 40,000 people relying on the survival of travel agents for employment.