An occupation that’s been hit hard by COVID-19 will receive a one-off payment to help them stay afloat under a $128 million scheme.
Travel agents hit hard by COVID-19 will receive a one-off payment to help them stay afloat amid uncertainty about international travel.
The $128 million federal scheme will deliver eligible travel agents one-off payments ranging from $1500 to $100,000, depending on turnover.
Federal Tourism Minister Simon Birmingham said the payment recognises many travel agents have had to refund existing bookings while continuing to work with no income amid uncertainty about international travel.
“Providing further assistance to travel agents in the current environment will help keep them afloat at a time when they are continuing to hold travel credits for consumers who have previously cancelled travel,” he said.
Australian Federation of Travel Agents chief executive officer Darren Rudd said the assistance acknowledged the challenging situation facing agents.
“This package will help to ensure the sector’s sustainability to assist Australian travellers with the new world of COVIDSafe travel,” he said.
Eligible travel agents with a turnover of between $50,000 and $20 million a year will be able to apply.
The one-off payments will be scaled, with a minimum payment of $1500 for a business with a turnover of $50 000, to a maximum payment of $100,000 for a business with a $20 million turnover.
Flight Centre Travel Group said it is awaiting specifics of the announcement but it appears it won’t benefit significantly.
“It appears that it won’t apply to us to any significant extent, given we are a large business with company-owned stores,” a spokesman said.
“This program appears to be targeted more at smaller businesses, franchisees and independent agents and it will be enormously beneficial to those who are eligible to receive it, given that agents have effectively been prevented from earning an income while heavy border restrictions, both internationally and domestically, have been in place.”
The announcement comes after the boss of travel company Helloworld last week told its annual general meeting last week excessive travel cancellation fees is a “burning issue”.
Chief executive Andrew Burnes acknowledged the big fees would-be travellers are being slugged – reportedly thousands of dollars – after being forced by the pandemic to call off their plans, but he blamed suppliers.
He reported “challenges” around whether suppliers offered credits only or refunds and while most of those issues were now resolved, the length of time to get monies back from suppliers to refund them back to customers remains an issue.
Australian Competition and Consumer Commission data shows the pandemic’s impact on travel accounted for 24,210 out of the 109,446 complaints received by the watchdog in the first 10 months of this year, up 497 per cent compared with the same period last year.
Complaints it received during the pandemic included businesses misleading consumers about their right to a refund or deducting cancellation fees from refunds when there is no contractual basis to do so.