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We’re not travelling well, Peninsula agencies tell Hunt

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Mornington Peninsula travel agencies are seeking financial support from the Federal Government in a bid to stay open during the continuing COVID-19 lockdown restrictions. As momentum for sector-specific support picks up ahead of the Federal Budget, nearly 30 Peninsula members of the Australian Federation of Travel Agents took to Zoom yesterday to brief Flinders federal Liberal MP Greg Hunt on the critical need for Government help.

Mornington Travel managing director Lee Midson, who arranged the Zoom meeting, said members highlighted to Mr Hunt the unique situation travel agencies were facing in Victoria and throughout Australia as a result of the pandemic. “Retail travel agencies like mine are overwhelmingly small businesses,” Ms Midson said. “The majority handle international travel services, which can account for 75-95 per cent of gross sales. It has been essential for travel agents to remain open as we’re working round the clock to manage the cancellations of client bookings and the lengthy processes involved in applying, negotiating and obtaining refunds and credits with many different suppliers.

“We are all working hard to get the best outcome for our clients, but unravelling complex itineraries and bookings is time-consuming work and we are unable to generate income due to the travel restrictions and domestic and international border closures. The first international borders to open will likely be New Zealand and the Pacific region, but without a known date at this stage it’s impossible for agents to make future bookings. We need our domestic borders to be open so that hopefully future demand for domestic travel can help kick-start a recovery in the travel and tourism industry.”

Ms Midson said the timeline for that recovery might not be until 2022 because of the uncertainty of international travel borders reopening at this stage and the time lag for agents to receive commissions on sales. The AFTA has made budget submissions to federal and state governments for a $125 million travel agent support package given the travel downturn and refund backlog.

“From big travel brands to independents, we saw a diverse cross-section of local travel agents come together yesterday online to support each other and our cause,” she added. “We’re all trying to navigate our way through this challenging situation.”

Ms Midson said Mr Hunt told the meeting he understood the unique challenges facing travel agents and encouraged the industry to continue to engage with their local members and states.

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