Josh Zuker from Josh Zuker Travel – 2019 Victorian Travel Agent of the Year – is outraged at the lack of support from the state government. Got an opinion to share? Let us know in up to 400 words via email to email@example.com.
Travel agencies across Australia became aware of COVID-19 around late Feb to early Mar this year.
Mid to late Mar travel agencies across Australia started cancelling bookings which had numerous hours and hard work invested, with all the projected commissions that we were going to be earning now going down the drain because the bookings were being cancelled.
Around late Apr saw the start of many shopfront travel agency businesses beginning to reduce staff and cease trading. We also saw a massive amount of airline staff being made redundant and many airlines, cruise lines and coach tour operators across the world reduce or cancel their scheduled services.
This, of course, made it nearly impossible for any travel agent to book a flight for a client that was in need to travel back home. For myself and my company, my last appointment in my shopfront retail office space was in late Mar of this year. Now I am still today fighting with the landlord to seek rent assistance in light of the current situation in Victoria and of course the travel industry.
In Victoria, ‘lockdown’ started. In my 40 years of life, I never knew what this meant. In one way or another, you could say that this was a form of punishment or perhaps losing my rights as a human being. Any way you look at it, life is never going to be the same.
Since Jun of this year, I can say I do appreciate the assistance that the government has given to many industries.
However, I am disgusted at the many conditions and regulations around these grants.
Offering a business some money is a bonus, though fighting for your right to stay in business is another.
The struggle that debt brings to everyone is unforeseen, and many try to hide the loss and pain that business owners like myself feel every single day. The mental health of everyone is so important and an issue that has come to the forefront this year. The travel industry has been left behind and forgotten about by the government! This includes re-opening of the borders around Australia.
With an industry worth around $46 billion to the Australian economy, how is it that every travel agent business owner is fighting for support? Why isn’t anyone listening?
MPs have been contacted.
Interviews have been had on national TV. Letters have been sent to the Prime Minister, and fellow colleagues, but still nothing, why? We might get a bad wrap in the papers, or in interviews, but please don’t assume that this is our fault. We were not built for this.
Around Jul, there were further government grants; however, these came with tighter restrictions including criteria that many home-based travel agents couldn’t meet. Either way you look at it, a home-based agent and a retail shopfront agent still have expenses such as loans, credit card commission recalls and, of course, not to mention the booking loss equalling to some hundreds of thousands of dollars.
In late Aug the situation saw some wholesalers and suppliers, including some airlines and more retail travel agency brands, cease trading and in some cases going bankrupt. We have also seen changes amongst refund rules to see credit notes now changed to possible refunds. The numerous amount of unpaid hours spent communicating with suppliers & clients is unheard of.
The recent announcement of the $3,000 Victorian Government grant, in my opinion, is a complete kick in the guts. Not only is Victoria in a full lockdown stage four situation, but the travel industry alone is in dire straits. I and many others are in five to six figure debt! I am completely taken aback on how the government thinks that a $3,000 grant is going to help.
There is no timeline on when the travel industry will recover – if ever. And with the reduction of JobKeeper next month, I am lost for words.
How can we survive? How can we continue to pay our expenses with less money? How can we pay business expenses with zero income?
Everyone I have spoken to in the last 24 hours has agreed with me, the recent announcement is just a slap in the face and with the revised rules of JobKeeper, I fear that more businesses across all industries will turn to bankruptcy.
So much is out of every travel agency owner and staff members’ hands – this pandemic has taken its toll on many people across Australia. Not to mention also across the world.
With more airlines at risk and wholesalers in Australia, who knows if the travel industry will ever be able to recover. For what it’s worth, I can’t wait for that day when I can travel on a plane or book that client on that adventure holiday that they deserve. In the meantime, how much more can we take?
Will COVID-19 defeat us?