Travel Agent NewsIndustry leaders close ranks in calling for urgent government support.

Travel industry Down Under faces ‘annihilation’

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A report from Australian Tourism Export Council indicates 80% of the country’s inbound tour operators will be gone by September “without some kind of government support”. Photo Credit: Getty Images/wallix

Australian travel industry leaders have teamed up to launch Save The Travel Industry — a national campaign that aims to pressure the Australian government to extend its JobKeeper financial rescue package until 2022, when international borders are expected to reopen.

JobKeeper support is due to end on 28 March.

Darren Rudd, CEO of the Australian Federation of Travel Agents (AFTA), a campaign supporter, is among those calling for government support beyond encouraging domestic tourism.

“The government’s focus on supporting domestic tourism is great but it’s more a confidence boost for consumers in getting them to travel within Australia rather than having any meaningful financial or revenue benefits for our travel agents, travel wholesalers and tour operators who rely on Australians travelling overseas,” he said.

The Save the Travel Industry campaign launch follows a sobering report from the Australian Tourism Export Council (ATEC) that indicates 80% of the country’s inbound tour operators will be gone by September “without some kind of government support”.

ATEC is the peak industry body representing Australia’s tourism export sector.

The council's Pulse Check survey of the export tourism businesses in the 12 months to January 2021 found 95% of inbound tour operators have revenue of less than 10% compared to 2019.

Some 75% of tourism businesses have been able to supplement some of their revenue with domestic visitors, but this spend represents less than 20% of income lost from overseas visitors.

“Australian tourism businesses have hung on with the support of JobKeeper but face annihilation once the programme ends next month if the government fails to provide further support,” ATEC managing director Peter Shelley said.

He said Australia’s tourism industry had spent the past 12 months battling enormous setbacks, “from bushfires to floods and the Covid crisis which has closed international borders and left tourism businesses with no customers”.

“Through no fault of their own, successful tourism businesses from across the country have been decimated by a series of setbacks that culminated with the international border closures,” Shelley added.

The outlook for international travel in 2021 remains murky as countries race to get their citizens vaccinated against Covid-19 and governments continue to impose border restrictions.

OAG figures reveal global airline capacity for the first quarter of the year is now standing at 782.2 million compared to 1.258 billion in 2020.

In another hit for inbound tour operators, Virgin Australia this week announced all short-haul international services would be cancelled until 19 June.

This covers flights to New Zealand, Indonesia and the Pacific Islands of Fiji, Samoa and Vanuatu.

Also this week, the French government temporarily halted inbound tourism to its overseas territories of French Polynesia, which includes the islands of Tahiti, Bora Bora and Moorea, citing "the resurgence of Covid-19 cases around the world”.

At the same time, and for the same reason, France closed its overseas territories in the Caribbean: St. Barts, St. Martin, Martinique and Guadeloupe.

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