Travel industry calls for COVID-19 rescue package during its ‘darkest time’

Noble Horvath

A proposal to create “travel bubbles” with certain countries is among a suite of measures the industry is lobbying the Federal Government to roll out in a bid to save the ailing sector. Travel agents across the NSW Mid North Coast met Cowper MP Pat Conaghan this week to discuss […]

A proposal to create “travel bubbles” with certain countries is among a suite of measures the industry is lobbying the Federal Government to roll out in a bid to save the ailing sector.

Travel agents across the NSW Mid North Coast met Cowper MP Pat Conaghan this week to discuss the need for customised support, including the creation of travel agreements with New Zealand and possibly Japan or Singapore.

“We really need to have some assistance and targeted assistance for our specific industry, like the building industry has, to keep us afloat,” Bellingen-based travel agent James Cracknell said.

“We have got no revenue coming in and probably not coming in for the next 12 to 18 months.”

The peak body for the sector, the Australian Federations of Travel Agents (AFTA) said international and state border closures had created more than $4 billion in losses.

Many of its 40,000 workers nationwide are surviving on the JobKeeper subsidy and scores of travel agencies have closed their doors.

Rescue package proposal ‘conservative’

AFTA chief executive Darren Rudd said this was the “darkest time” the industry had faced.

The dire outlook has prompted AFTA to put forward a $125m package to the Federal Government proposing various measures like business grants, concessional loans and encouraging holidaymakers to use travel agents.

Mr Rudd said the rescue package was conservative compared with those tailored to other sectors, such as the Federal Government’s $250m support fund for the arts.

“We see this as a one-off to get to the other side and then hopefully things go back to normal and we have growth,” he said.

“We are hoping the states and territories come to the party with some funding.”

Mr Rudd said the package would be vital in ensuring jobs were retained.

“We want to sustain them as much as possible until borders are liberated,” he said.

Mr Conaghan thanked the industry for its “heavy lifting” in repatriating Australians stranded abroad.

He backed the industry’s calls for a rescue package and offered reassurances that talks were underway within the National Cabinet about possible travel bubbles being established.

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