MORNINGTON Peninsula travel agents held a zoom meeting with Flinders MP Greg Hunt last week to discuss their struggles under the pandemic and to seek tailored financial support.
The “gathering of the troops” was arranged by Mornington Travel principal Lee Midson, Thursday 24 September.
The 30 agents – all members of the Australian Federation of Travel Agents – are seeking federal and state government support for a $125 million travel agent support package “given the travel downturn and refund backlog”.
They briefed Mr Hunt on the “critical” need for financial aid for their businesses, which “are all locally owned and all employing local people”.
“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.”
While all the agents are on JobKeeper, and thankful for any stimulus for jobs, Ms Midson said they were all “working harder than ever”.
“It’s critical that we stay open [because] it can take longer to cancel and try to obtain refunds for our clients on flights, cruises and in hotels than it was to make the original bookings,” she said.
“Agents have to be on the case every day… there’s hours of constant monitoring [yet] we are unable to generate income due to the travel restrictions and domestic and international border closures.”
The agents told Mr Hunt federal government support was “essential” to help them help their customers into 2021.
“Mr Hunt got it,” said Ms Midson, who has lived on the peninsula for 30 years. “He understood where we were coming from and urged us to continue actively pushing the importance of our sector. While he said he can’t promise anything he’s on the expenditure review committee and that will help.”
The agents expect the first international borders to open will likely be New Zealand and the Pacific region. The uncertainty is causing problems: “Without a known date it’s impossible for agents to make future bookings,” Ms Midson said. This is preventing their earning commissions on sales.
“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.”