But agencies that have relied exclusively on job seekers fear that they will not be able to recover like the other sectors when the program is canceled after September.
Flight Center founder and chief executive Graham Turner told ABC Radio on Tuesday that the industry needs federal and state governments to be more clear on whether they are pursuing elimination or elimination, and making certainty as to the movements that would be authorized.
“We really need the national borders to open first, then the international borders open,” he said. “The jobkeeper helps a bit but that’s not the real problem. Our main problem we have is that we have no product to sell. “
Due to travel restrictions, Flight Center had to reduce its staff from 22,000 to 5,000 people. Helloworld Travel this week launched a $ 50 million fundraising exercise to strengthen its balance sheet, with transaction volumes expected to remain at 10% -12% of previous levels until the borders of the United States fully reopen. State. It cut operating costs from approximately $ 23 million to approximately $ 2 million per month and laid off 700 of its 1,500 employees, with the remaining 800 working reduced hours.
When new figures released Thursday showed unemployment rose to 7.4% in June, Opposition Employment and Small Business Minister Brendan O’Connor held a press conference with an officer travel to call for an extension of the guard post to keep tourism workers employed. .
Andrew Buerckner, the Melbourne travel agent appearing with O’Connor, said 23 of his 25 employees would not be employed without a job guard and predicted that “98% of travel agencies in Australia would disappear” without the grant.
“Even if I hate the word” hub “, there is very little chance for the travel industry to switch to another area,” he said. “The hotel business has the flexibility to look at take-out and minimize its operations, but still has additional income. For us, we haven’t really had any income since March. ”
Gloria Gammo, who heads Sydney-based luxury travel specialist GG Inspired, has counted on employment as income for her and her assistant since the closing of international borders at the start of the pandemic.
She told Guardian Australia that not only was the revenue stopping, but that her small business “now spends all of our time refunding money to customers” and negotiating refunds with airlines for travel that have been canceled.
Gammo has also “received commission reminders on past bookings” for vacations that never happened.
“We are not making any income now,” she said. “Not only are we working for free to negotiate refunds with hotels and airlines, but we have to refund money, and our future earnings that we had planned are gone because you only get paid when the customer stays.”
“You must make peace with the number of thousands you must have returned.”
However, Gammo says the forced vacation cancellations have shown the value of the reservation through a travel agent, as they seek refunds on behalf of customers and have their own access to reservation systems.
She says clients whose trips have been canceled are booking intrastate getaways with her, and those who have had to postpone international honeymoons are in the meantime holding multi-stage national ‘mini-moons’. .
“I remember being on Scenic Tours for two hours, and it was on their line for travel agents, then talking to them for six hours to arrange reimbursement for a trip that’s going on that day- there, ”she said. “These customers will only remember what you did for them.”
Official complaints about booking travel online have quadrupled since the start of the pandemic, with the Australian Competition and Consumer Commission receiving 9,941 complaints from January 1 to the end of May, compared to 2,324 complaints in the same period in 2019.
Despite the complaints, Brian Han, senior equity analyst at Morningstar, believes that “pure bricks and mortar” stores that had become “increasingly marginalized” with the growth of online commerce now face an “existential threat. ”
“The coronavirus has accelerated the migration of purchasing behavior from physical stores to online sites in many industries,” he says. “There are fewer and fewer reasons why you physically walk into a store now, and that will extend to travel agents. [when travel restrictions are lifted]. »
Han says that while travel agents have traditionally survived on larger commissions, “online gamers take a smaller share and still do well enough” because they don’t have to pay for real estate.
Han predicts that when the restrictions induced by the pandemic are lifted, “bigger players” such as Flight Center “will become even stronger because small agencies have fallen by the wayside” and will not be able to hibernate their homes. companies long enough to ride the wave of “pent-up travel demand”.
He says it’s because companies like Flight Center have already started to enter foreign markets, create online brands (BYOJet and Aunt Betty) and target corporate customers.
Pierre Benckendorff, associate professor of tourism trade at the University of Queensland, also believes that small travel agents “are in the grip of many conflicts”.
“If someone wants to survive, a large organization like Flight Center, with deep pockets, will have a very good chance,” he says.
Benckendorff says that many independent travel agents based in suburban and rural centers were forced to specialize in complicated routes or to be part of larger chains during the dotcom boom.
Han says this trend will intensify and that most travel agents will exist for luxury travel and complicated business travel.
“For a seven-stop route through Africa, you might think I’m going to go see a travel agent,” he says. “But for a three-night trip to Melbourne, online is easier and eliminates a very expensive middleman. Why would you want to go to an agent?