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AFTA lobbies govt for $125m, other relief measures


The Australian Federation of Travel Agents (AFTA) is lobbying the Federal Government for a special Travel Agent Support Package of $125 million, as around $4 billion worth of bookings and funds wait to be processed and returned to consumers.

Containing a range of business relief measures, AFTA says its Pre-Budget Submission flags the position of travel agents, tour operators and travel wholesalers “on the pandemic frontline” amid a 90%-plus fall in revenue for businesses. 

 

In a statement outlining its Submission, AFTA added that in 2018-19, “Australians spent over $46 billion on international travel for commerce, cultural and leisure reasons plus visiting family and friends”, which represented the largest import sector in the Australian economy. 

 

 

Australian travel also experienced annual average growth of 11% over the past decade and 7.2% in the last five years. 

 

Among the initiatives AFTA is seeking to “ensure the sector’s survival”, are: 

- Scaled Back to Business grants forecast to be an average $40,000 based on total transaction value in FY19 to help companies stay in business

- Back in Business concessional loans of up to $100,000 per agency to sustain business and service to travellers

- The establishment of travel bubbles and promotion of the purchase of travel through Australian-owned travel businesses

 

“Right now, the primary priority of our members is doing everything they can to obtain the maximum refund for their customers,” AFTA CEO Darren Rudd remarked.

 

“Travel Agents and wholesalers are working through the complicated process of refunds and credits under COVID-19 conditions (resources and systems stretched beyond capacity) repatriating outstanding funds of approximately $10 billion, which will be reinvested in Australian businesses, including tourism in Australia. 

 

“These funds represent an enormous stimulus for the Australian economy, which require the expertise of travel agents to ensure the maximum value is returned to our customers.” 

 

According to Rudd, “AFTA estimates 80% of the current workforce is working full time on refunds, cancellations and credits, in an effort to help consumers”.

 

“Add to this, the specialised expertise required to navigate the individual Terms and Conditions that each supplier has and the complexity becomes obvious. This is not a role that is easily absorbed by Government even if the personnel resources were available.”

 

“AFTA is firmly of the view that the survival of those employed in the thousands of small to medium sized businesses, currently providing a valuable service to an estimated 4 million Australians warrants special consideration and the allocation of a specific industry grant.”

 

 “AFTA proposes a comprehensive package of measures to bridge the financial impact of the travel sector by assisting both AFTA accredited agents and non-AFTA members and their customers through the direct impacts of the COVID-19 pandemic on their businesses and travel plans, and back to profitability from late 2021.”

 

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Written by: Mark Harada


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