Tonight's Federal Budget has confirmed Government expectations that Australia's international borders will remain closed for at least the next 12 months. Covid-19 was brought to our attention by hundreds of thousands of people around the globe in March 2020.
Travel Agents worldwide commenced cancelling hundreds of thousands of bookings for their clients, of which they had spent hours and hours working on. Just like that, travel agents welcomed a new type of working day.
This featured a mundane routine of cancelling flight bookings within the system and applying for a potential refund. It also meant that the agent had to read pages and pages of rules that changed so rapidly. Not to mention the multitude of attempts to contact airlines via phone or email and get nowhere.
In addition to this, land components of a booking were to be cancelled, comprising of;
- rail journeys;
- hotel accommodations
With the pile of paperwork growing and stress levels increasing, it became near impossible to function.
Business around the globe was going into administration quicker than we could blink. Staff across all aspects within the Travel Industry were on edge day in and day out as their job was uncertain. They didn't know when the following email came into their inbox, or the phone rang if it would be their employer advising they are now made redundant.
Week in and week out, the industry became smaller and smaller. The travel industry was becoming a place that once was a space that people loved working in. Though right in the midst of 2020, people, if they were not made redundant, they wanted a way out.
There was no hope. With zero income and zero ways to find a solution, it was one of the most challenging and most impossible "jobs" within anyone's travel career had to undertake.
The Government (if fortunate) had assisted in the early days with JobKeeper V1. If you were in Victoria, a Business Grant was offered to those fortunate. Of course, there were terms and conditions around these grants, so on paper, they looked terrific, but they were not when proofreading the fine print.
Of course, these Grants don't or have come easy. With an enormous amount of paperwork and time spent applying has been a tedious task altogether. Some still to this day fighting for what they were entitled to in say April/ May 2020. Yes, that is right, some have not even been paid!
Some agents/ business owners, including myself, had taken to the media and were fortunate enough to be interviewed on the National News, New Programmes, TV and Radio, and Print Media. Following this even had the pleasure to be interviewed by local MP's. Many agents had participated in surveys written emails to their local Parliament and the prime minister and his office.
Was this enough?
In around the months of June to September, the Travel Industry was at its knees! It had seen hundreds of aircraft stored in the desert, and cruise liners park their ships in graveyards around the world. With zero capacity of tourists in hotels and not travelling on either coach tours and rail journeys, the industry had (back then) no hope!
It became prudent that many retail and corporate office spaces were closing their doors because they could not see sense in paying money or continue to argue with their landlords about the constant devastation we have faced and continue to face.
The travel industry has never seen a globe close its borders internationally and Domestically so quickly and then tease the consumer with a reopening date. Or what we became immune with, a "bubble".
Some would call it a lie. Some would call it hope!
I would call it a false promise! False promises from a Government that continues to earn a wage. I might add, a decent salary but has absolutely no idea about the local business owner and how such devastation can rip so much away from them.
Travel Agents, including myself, have had to deal with abuse, both written and verbal, threats, letters of demands, and Tribunal Hearing notices.
All whilst trying to secure a refund vs a credit note for our clients, there have been tears, meltdowns, anxiety attacks, and more! Oh, I will add, we did not get paid one cent for all of this! Travel agents have not earned a wage since March 2020!
With many ex-colleagues closing down their business or been made redundant, they have had to start again. Start again, just like that. The Government states that the Australian Employment rates have improved to all highs. Was a Government official paid to say such a comment? It's complete and utterly absurd.
We all know that starting again comes with so much risk. So much risk comes with both good and mental health challenges and other challenges that we face daily.
I can say that the Travel Industry has caused so many mental health issues that this Government has forgotten to talk about!
With the travel industry 14 months into this Global Pandemic we know as Covid-19 and with further International Travel Bans for Australians until Mid/ Late 2022, it is clear to anyone with logic to say that there will be additional business closures across the retail/ wholesale/ corporate front.
With airlines reducing their services over the past 12 months and operating on skeleton staff, we know that both air and ground staff is at an all-time low. This is resulting in reducing their fleet. In the air and on the ground means reducing their fleet. Some fleet being retired for good, and some not returning to the air for some time.
Unfortunately, this is the same for cruise liners, coach and rail companies. We have also seen many hotels close their doors and, with sadness, have chosen not to reopen.
The hot topic that is spoken about nearly every day is 'refunds' and 'credit' notes. Every travel agent has worked tirelessly for their client/s to secure a refund where and when possible. On so many occasions have only been partially successful.
For around 40% of the bookings, the principal has only offered a credit. These credits have their extended booking terms, and conditions added; however, right now, except for the border closures, the big question on everyone's face is; will this principle be around when the borders do reopen in years to come? And, if not, can we get our money back now?
The answer, unfortunately, is, sorry, you can't. We, however, do not make up these terms and conditions.
- Came and is here to stay.
- Ruined our world. It also destroyed many other businesses.
- Has destroyed human lives and pulled families apart.
- Has caused so much financial strain on so many people.
- Has turned the world upside and opened our eyes to a new kind of world.
Covid-19: we can learn to adapt and live with, moving forward. We can get on with our lives. But, our Government: could you put yourself in our shoes and, for a moment, think how we feel. Feel what it is like to be under so much strain. Hear what it is like to receive abuse from your clients.
Will you listen? It's not as now that it's in your best interest to continue to take matters into your hands and close borders "indefinitely".
In closing, how can we sustain what we used to have? The answer is simple - we can't! As sad and devastating as this is, I, for one, can vouch that I have given it everything I have. So many have spoken up and been proud to represent their business/ company for the industry, but now, there is only so much one can do.
The travel industry has always been left behind, and now, it's clear that the Government will continue to leave us behind.
It's beyond words! Many travel agents have worked through;
- Natural Disasters
- Terrorist Attacks
- And more....
Why is it that COVID-19 changed our world forever?
Why is it, and why was it (from March 2020) so special?
All I know is that it saddens me because (even as of today) many have lost their passion and love for the travel industry at no fault of their own. They have been in the industry for 40+ years, and now they have to start again. We can not function with a Government that will continue to control our moves.
We need the Government to wake up! listen! and, will do something. When that my friend is the million-dollar question because mid/ late 2022 is going to be way too late!