I am writing to you as a very concerned Melbournian. Also, the owner of a boutique travel company known as Josh Zuker Travel, which had a team of 10, and effective officially on 31st December 2020, I had to let everyone go. Rewind a few months, and effective July 2020 I had to close my corporate office in Hampton Street, Hampton. Let's rewind to 20th March 2020, and that is when the world stopped. Travel agents around the globe woke up and what was to become their biggest nightmare, became it!
Fast forward, a few months, and my company began to cancel 100's of thousands of dollars worth of bookings. Not once, Victoria was in lockdown, but twice and by saying August 2020 Josh Zuker Travel had a cancellation total of 2.5 Million Dollars!
The travel industry was one that was a luxury for many. Those with their own business/ company, or for those that had worked for an employer. We, the staff got to sell a dream, to those that hadn't travelled before, and for those that have, it was from the repeat clientele that made our businesses a success.
Many agents and agencies had won many awards and allocate throughout their career. Many also lived through all the unforeseen disasters that had taken place around the world for many years. Some even lost loved ones, clients, and were faced with immense challenges.
In 2019, my company was fortunate enough to win Victoria Travel Agency of the Year (under, Express Travel Group), with a gross turnover of 10 Million Dollars. From March 2020 - Josh Zuker Travel and all those amazing travel agents worldwide, predominately Australia has not earned a cent. Though, for what it's worth and what we have done is;
- Stay up to all hours and call airlines, cruise lines, hotels.
- Fight for our clients to seek a refund.
- Processed refunds.
- Issues credit notes.
- Read abusive emails.
- Listen to abusive phone calls.
- Cried ourself to sleep and throughout the day as it was/ and is too much.
- Explained ourselves to clients multiple times and ended up in arguments at times.
- Fought with landlords to cease/ pause rent, or exit out of leases.
- Fought with financial lenders to seek 'hardship' and have our home loans and car leases etc. paused.
- Explained ourself repetitively to many the situation we are in, and nothing changes.
- Read/ and reread supplier rules and had to reissue credit notes, and re-apply for refunds that should have been at first easy!
- Tried to explain ourselves to clients that didn't understand that this isn't our fault, and that, the delays are outside of control.
- Constantly emailing suppliers and begging them to reply!
- Spending money each day online (working), and losing it by the minute as we do not make any money.
- Cancelled application subscriptions.
- Cancelled systems that were in place for the business.
- And more...
The Government grants that were awarded to business all came with conditions, and for which, the processes involved were tedious and draining.
The concerns that we wake up with, mental health that we all struggle with, and of course, the financial strain has left us all for the better word broke!
JobKeeper was put in place as of April 2020, and fortunately many have received this, however, with the constant change and reductions in place, it has made it even harder to survive. If JobKeeper ends of the Tourism Industry as of 31st March 2021, we won't survive.
With International travel off the radar for at least another 12 months, we clearly need something. Otherwise, we will all be left to sell our homes, cars, furniture, and more. We could even be left homeless!
If the Government has enough money to fund parks, railway stations, and more, then why are they not funding an industry that is valued at an approximate 76% of the Australian economy?
The recent commentary of the 128 Million Dollar 'Travel Industry Support Package' was completely flawed. Travel Agency business who did not have a minimum turnover of $50,000.00 was not eligible. Please tell me why the Government state that this has "saved the industry would". The scheme was also changed from Gross Turnover to GST Turnover at the final hour, and then, from Financial Year to Calendar Year. For many like me, a grant that meant say $80,000.00 approximate, equalled $11,500.00 - this is and was a complete kick in the guts! All this did was pay half of a credit card, but still leaves a total debt of $120,000 (approx) and now, the fear of losing my house and more...
With the industry fighting hard against the odds, there is a potential 40,000 staff that will lose their jobs across the country come the 31st March 2021 if we don't receive our 'actual' industry support package which is said to be 10 Billion Dollars, across the board.
- Does the Government want this on their shoulders?
- Does the Government not understand this?
We are talking - but are you actually listening? Come on! Why are you making this so hard for us? Do you want the travel industry gone?
As of 25th January 2021, we have united stronger with Small Business Australia, Facebook Lobby Groups, and many agents across the country, including myself, have been interviewed on radio, newspaper, and mainstream TV news.
Remember this, a travel agent charging a service fee, or booking fee is in the right to do so. However, this does not equal their salary or wage. This also doesn't rescue their business. We are in the right to charge our hard-earned commission, of which many have.
Why should we have to return this money to you for something that we have not done? How can you ask us to re-pay you the money we have used to feed us, our children, and keep a roof over our heads?
Please, listen to us all, we are suffering, and we need your help, now!
We need JobKeeper extended until International Borders reopen 100%
We need our specific Government Grant valued at 10 Billion Dollars, to help everyone, not just some. Not conditional! It needs to be straight forward. Simple.