Agents call for broader Covid inquiry

SYDNEY, 26 September 2023: Considered one of the hardest hit sectors in Australia’s economy, the travel sector supports the Australian Human Rights Commission’s call for a broadening of the inquiry’s terms to include the impact of Covid lockdowns, international travel bans and border closures.

In a media statement released last week, the Australian Travel Industry Association (ATIA) said it was including a call in submissions for the review to look at the substantial issues in Austrade’s handling of the distribution of Consumer Travel Support Grant funds of AUD270 Million.

Australia’s travel agents and businesses experienced massive revenue falls of 95% plus on the closure of Australia’s international border on 20 March 2020

Travel businesses suffered with no income due to the international travel shutdown, chasing AUD10 Billion in credits and refunds on behalf of their customers

A third of the workforce, 15,000 jobs, were lost while the complexity of chasing refunds was massively increased

The constant opening and shutting of state borders further added a significant burden, the ATIA statement concluded.

Travel is still recovering. ATIA’s submission to the Senate Committee Inquiry into Bilateral Air Service Agreements noted that international fares are still massively elevated. Flights from Sydney, for example, are still up to 99% higher than pre-Covid, due to a lack of competition and capacity.

ATIA CEO Dean Long commented: “The terms of the inquiry are a good starting point, but we ask that the government expand the terms of reference to consider the biggest source of impact on our sector – border closures and lockdowns.”

“Australia deserves a unified national approach, and the review, in looking at what worked and what didn’t, needs to look at those decisions that had the most significant impact on people’s lives, which was the restriction of movement. That needs to be front and centre of any review.

“Speak to any travel agent or business still operating today. They have a war story about the multiple complex problems in Austrade’s management of the Consumer Travel Support Grant funds from design to implementation. The process for so many of our members was frustrating, and the approach was unsuitable and not fit for purpose. Austrade has done a review but hasn’t released it. That needs to be considered by this review as there’s no doubt that there are lessons to be learnt from the processes and approach adopted by the government of the day and the department at the time.”

The Australian Travel Industry Association (ATIA) is the peak body representing Australia’s $69 billion travel industry. ATIA represents the majority of Australian travel agents, corporate agents, tour operators, wholesalers and ITOs. 92% of ATIA members are small businesses, with women making up 72% of the workforce.


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