Travel agents in the Hawkesbury are calling for an industry-specific package of measures to be delivered in the Federal Government’s Budget.
Local representatives met with Federal Macquarie MP Susan Templeman on September 25 to update her on the continuing strains being placed on the industry throughout the COVID-19 pandemic.
This is in light of cuts to the JobKeeper subsidy prior to next week’s Budget. CEO of the Australian Federation of Travel Agents, Darren Rudd, joined the meeting via phone.
Katrina Brown of Richmond Travel Centre was one of the agents that met with Ms Templeman, said the drop in business had resulted in the loss of two staff members.
“Two found new jobs because they could see the writing on the wall, and we understand that,” Ms Brown said.
“We’re all locals. I am a Richmond girl through and through, and it’s heartbreaking, the rug has been pulled from under me. It’s going to be a very slow crawl back.
“We’ve taken this time to renovate. We didn’t spend a lot of money but we want to give people the confidence that we are going to stick around.”
Ms Templeman said that Travel agents were one of the first industries to lose business and will be one of the last to recover from the pandemic.
“International borders are closed and interstate travel has been severely restricted,” she said.
“These local agents live and work in the area, and they employ local people.
“When JobKeeper wound back on September 28, it put more pressure on them, and that is going to have a ripple effect on our local economy.”
Carolyn Burgmann of Travel Managers in Bowen Mountain said JobKeeper had helped “keep our heads above water”, and it was important to remind people booking through a travel agent had great benefits.
“You have safety because your funds are secure, you have our research services, and you have 24/7 assistance, which has really come to the fore with clients who were stuck overseas,” Ms Burgmann said.
The industry is pushing for the introduction of rapid COVID testing and a $125 million rescue package from the Government ahead of the Budget.
“I have met with travel agents several times during this pandemic and I want to make sure they aren’t forgotten as we find a path back out,” Ms Templeman said.
“We will all be watching the budget delivery very closely to see if the Government makes a genuine effort to help local people like Katrina and Carolyn, and the other local travel agents so their businesses can recover and thrive.”