House debates

Thursday, 18 February 2021

Constituency Statements

COVID-19: Travel Industry

10:03 am

Photo of Llew O'BrienLlew O'Brien (Wide Bay, National Party) Share this | | Hansard source

We need travel agents to be there when the international borders reopen, and government must improve its travel agent support program—to better target it to ensure that those businesses survive. So far the focus has been on crisis management, but this must shift to protecting the future of these businesses on the other side of the COVID-19 pandemic.

We need to provide a better lifeline to what have been successful travel agents and local small businesses which are now on the brink of collapse through no fault of their own. These small, sole operators and family owned businesses which sell flights, accommodation, cruises and experiences continue to suffer. Their incomes have plummeted by 90 per cent and, in some cases, have dropped to zero. Travel agents struggle to keep their 40,000 employees in a job.

Three out of four travel agents are women and many of those are mothers. During lockdown, with state and international borders closed, they worked for free to cancel bookings and provide refunds to their customers for the travel they were no longer able to take. Their incomes and bank accounts dwindled as they diligently paid back the commissions they had earned many months ago on bookings that were then cancelled. But travel agents' bills keep coming in for office rent, staff costs, electricity, business equipment, phone and internet.

Travel agents and tourism work hand in hand, and Queensland coastal communities rely on the jobs and income they provide. Forcing travel agents to wind up and get out is not an option because they will play a critical role in the recovery of our tourism and hospitality industry throughout Noosa, Wide Bay and Queensland. The people who provide the travel, accommodation and tour bookings through travel agents and the travel agents themselves deserve to be supported, because they will play a critical role in our national recovery and the reemployment of thousands. Once borders reopen, it is the travel agents who will make sure Australians can explore the world safely and who will market our locations and experiences to people overseas. We will endure the impact of COVID-19 for several more years but we need travel agents to be there when the borders reopen, and the government must listen to them and support them.