Tuesday, 27 October 2020
2020 has been a phenomenally difficult year for the travel and tourism industry. Labor has been spending many of the last few months highlighting the plight of people who work in this industry, in travel, tourism, aviation and related areas, and the fact that the government doesn't have a national plan for this sector. The holes in the Prime Minister's response are becoming more and more visible, and more and more damaging. The dnata catering workers have had JobKeeper withheld. Qantas baggage handlers have had their jobs outsourced. Thousands of Jetstar workers have lost work altogether. At the same time, the government is finding money to lend to Crown casino for private jets, to Mineralogy—Clive Palmer's company—for private jets and to Leppington Pastoral Company for private jets.
Amongst all of this chaos, one of the groups that have been overlooked—and I really do fear for their future—are travel agents. In an electorate like mine, there are thousands of people employed in the travel industry. This sector is feeling the pain very deeply. The vast majority of travel agents' revenue comes from booking overseas travel. Of course, it hasn't been happening this year and it's not likely to happen for some time into the future. Travel agents have often had to reach into their own pockets to repay deposits to people who booked travel, because they can't get the money back from companies overseas; the suppliers haven't been forthcoming. It has been a phenomenally difficult and stressful time for this industry. Of course, domestic tourism is great for Australian hotels and for the hospitality industry more generally. But people who are travelling within Australia generally aren't booking that travel through travel agents. So this particular group, even with a return to open borders between Australian states, is unlikely to see restoration of their previous levels of activity.
I have spoken with the Australian Federation of Travel Agents and with travel agents in my electorate recently—Peter, Mario, Grant and Christopher. I can tell you they're anxious. They're anxious about how they're going to pay their rent, pay back those deposits and so on. They're very, very anxious about how they're going to keep paying wages for their staff. They tell me again and again that their staff are like family; these are generally quite small and cohesive groups of people who have worked together for a long time. They're beside themselves about how they will keep their doors open and how they will keep people in jobs. Most of them tell me that it's unlikely that their businesses will survive much beyond the end of the financial year, and that announcements like the loss carry-back provision won't actually help them. If we don't want this downturn to be longer and deeper than it already is, the government must have a specific plan for this industry.