THE Australian Federation of Travel Agents (AFTA) has welcomed the opening of the Trans-Tasman travel corridor from April 19, announced today by New Zealand Prime Minister Jacinta Ardern.

AFTA chairman Tom Manwaring said the ability to travel between Australia and New Zealand without quarantining was a much-needed confidence boost for the travel industry, but warned of the need for "a consistent approach to keeping the corridor open".

“The opening of the Trans-Tasman travel corridor from April 19 is a greatly needed boost to consumer confidence in both markets and many of our members are seeing increased interest in booking New Zealand, albeit primarily to visit friends and family," Mr Manwarrng said. 

“It’s not a massive increase in business and our sector still desperately needs support but it is a much needed step in the right direction.

“However, we urge both the Australian and the New Zealand governments to do all they can to ensure now the corridor is open that it stays open. This is important both in terms of consumer confidence in booking travel and from a workload perspective for travel agents who are still working hard on repatriating the outstanding $4 billion still owed to Australians by airlines, hotels and tour operators on COVID-impacted travel and managing re-bookings and cancellations as a result of state restrictions.”

ATEC ALSO BACKS MOVE

The Australian Tourism Export Council (ATEC) has also welcomed the announcement of a travel bubble between Australia and New Zealand to start in the middle of April.

ATEC said the initiative would "help to re-establish some of Australia’s long term travel relationships and marks the first step in reopening our export tourism industry to international visitors".

“Our industry will be very happy to hear that a travel bubble has been agreed between the Australian and New Zealand governments which will see one of our most significant markets back online,” ATEC managing director Peter Shelley said. “Australian tourism businesses, like those across the world, have suffered severely with the closure of international borders and this marks an initial step towards re-establishing our $45 billion annual export industry.

“Thousands of tourism businesses across the country have suffered a severe drop in their income with the closure of international borders and many are simply holding on for announcements like this." 
 
Mr Shelley said a recent ATEC survey of the export industry showed Australian inbound tour operators (ITOs) were suffering the most under the international border closures with 80 percent operating with less than 10 percent of their pre-COVID revenue.

“While our tourism product supplier members are doing their best to turn to the domestic market and are working hard to make ends meet, ITOs are only staying afloat with the help of the Federal Government's travel agent grants program now that the JobKeeper subsidy has ended.

“Without the re-opening of borders or the certainty provided by ongoing government support, a large number of ITOs will be out of business within months, taking with them a significant pipeline of forward bookings made by international travellers and millions of dollar’s in revenue.

“ITO’s are the businesses which sell Australian tourism product across the world and while they are small in number, they deliver a huge amount of business across the country, especially to regional areas which have developed strong destination appeal for international visitors.

“The reopening of international borders will be wholeheartedly welcomed across the industry and particularly by those businesses whose entire future rests on international visitation.”

www.afta.com.au

www.atec.net.au

 

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BRINGING BUSINESS events back to Brisbane is the focus of a funding package announced this week by Brisbane Economic Development Agency (Brisbane EDA).

Brisbane EDA general manager of tourism, business and major events, Juliet Alabaster said providing support to attract more business events back to the city was key for the economic recovery of the events industry. Applications are now open, she said.

“As part of our wider ‘Brisbane. Even Better with You’ campaign, we are offering event planners and businesses a cash incentive to make it easier for them to choose Brisbane for their next face-to-face conference or incentive event,” Ms Alabaster said. 

“This funding can be used to either deliver an enhanced delegate experience through an upgraded event program, or contribute to reducing the overall cost of their event as some welcome budget relief.”

Ms Alabaster encouraged event planners to reach out, get free advice, and find out more about the exceptional experience Brisbane can give delegates.

“Brisbane is a fantastic city, with our warm weather, vibrant open-air restaurants, world-class venues and cultural attractions and outstanding hotels to choose from,” Ms Alabaster said.

“We know our local industry has experienced incredibly challenging conditions the past year and we want to provide a helping hand to encourage more Brisbane business events bookings -- to boost our local economy and support our local businesses, accommodation providers and our service industry.

“We want to instil confidence in event planners that Brisbane is ready to host their next event, and they can expect our signature warm welcome when they do.”

The package includes funding of $50 per person for eligible business events held between March 2021 and December 2022 and must be booked at a Brisbane venue by June 30, 2021.

Apply at choosebrisbane.com.au/conventions.

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THE Australian Tourism Export Council (ATEC) has welcomed the Federal Government's Consumer Travel Support Program's range of support measures for travel and tourism, "particularly those focused on safeguarding the future of the beleaguered tourism export sector" -- but warns it is "not the perfect support package".

The Accommodation Association said while programs will support many tourism regions which were hard hit by bushfires and then the subsequent shut downs, "unfortunately the package does not support our two major international gateways of Sydney and Melbourne". 

The Australian Federation of Travel Agents (AFTA) said it would continue to work with the Federal Government to ensure that the extension of the COVID-19 Consumer Travel Support Program provides support to those travel businesses who most need it.

According to ATEC, although many operators were unlikely to receive a direct benefit, tourism businesses across the country indicated they would potentially benefit from some measures, especially those in regional and remote areas as well as vital supply chain distributors.

"The challenge export tourism businesses face is staying afloat until international borders reopen. With JobKeeper off the table, the ability to retain staff while revenue is at an all-time low will be very difficult," ATEC managing director Peter Shelley said.   

“The past 12 months has seen many tourism businesses with little or no income and many would have already gone to the wall without the JobKeeper support. On the positive the package will deliver much needed support to regions dependent on international visitors with the flight subsidy program and other measures aimed at supporting and re-invigorating key destinations.

“The extension of the Travel Agents grants program will be critical for the commercial survival of the inbound tour operator businesses which have underpinned the success of our inbound tourism industry for the past 50 years by being the primary distribution channel for international visitors travelling to Australia," Mr Shelley said.

“The loan scheme will also provide an important safety net for many businesses but there will still be countless operators making the tough decision to shed valuable skilled employees without the continuation of JobKeeper. It’s critical state governments recognise the importance of their borders remaining open and all governments commit to a tourism restart timeline which is vital to the survival of thousands of small tourism businesses across the country.

“The next step will be to see our international visitors back but while the date remains uncertain, our export tourism businesses will continue to need support and this package will go some way in helping them continue their scaled-down operations," he said.

“It is vital these businesses survive through until our borders open so they can help the industry quickly reconnect with international visitors and start to sell these regional tourism products to overseas guests.

“I think we all agree it’s an imperfect package, but we welcome the components which support the valuable $45 billion inbound tourism sector. The concern shared by many is will it be enough to support businesses reliant on international tourism which continues to have an uncertain restart date."

 

Accomodating the challenges

According to the Accommodation Association, bith the Sydney and Melbourne markets currently have a forward booking rate of less than 10 percent for the next 90 days.

Accommodation Association CEO Dean Long said, "For Sydney and Melbourne, where 80 percent of the market is from international and corporate markets which are still not operating due to government restrictions, the lack of support in this package will result in a loss of jobs and slow our recovery once borders are open.  

“Our hotels in these two major international gateways currently have a forward booking rate of less than 10 percent for the next 90 days and desperately need immediate support," he said.

“Our workforce is highly skilled and the government has not provided the support for our skilled chefs, waiters, revenue managers and duty managers in the same way as they have for airlines. This means it will have a dramatic negative impact once international borders open and we don’t have the team members to provide the high service levels they demand.

“Loans are only helpful when you have a level of certainty of revenue to service debts and a clear strategy to keep the economy open. Without this, Australia’s accommodation businesses can’t take on new debit even if banks are prepared to lend to them.

“The Accommodation Association will be making urgent representations to the Federal Government for additional support to ensure our important Sydney and Melbourne accommodation sectors get the support so urgently needed," Mr Long said.
 
Mr Long said in order to preserve a base from which the tourism and accommodation sectors can rebuild, the Accommodation Association’s Pre-Budget submission also seeks a range of urgent support measures including:

  • Support workers of the Accommodation Sector so they are treated the same as airlines;
  • Implementation of a consistent national health strategy to manage virus outbreaks without closing state borders to restore confidence in interstate travel;
  • The creation of a level playing field through the introduction of a sharing economy third-party reporting regime in FY21/22 which requires sharing economy platforms to report to the ATO for data matching purposes;
  • Development of a clear national plan to open international borders that has State and Territory commitment.

 

AFTA goes to bat for travel agents

AFTA Chair Tom Manwaring said while the details of the Federal Government’s tourism and aviation $1.2 billion recovery package were still to be released, the support "is a very welcome and much needed injection for a sector on its knees"

He said  Tourism Minister Dan Tehan confirmed at the launch media conference that an additional $128 million would be added to the $128 million COVID-19 Consumer Travel Support Program

AFTA has asked the Federal Government to anchor the additional support within a framework that is relevant to agency costs and promotes the retention of key expertise within the sector.

“Our sector which relies almost entirely on international travel slammed to a shut in February last year," Mr Manwarring said. "Nine out of 10 travel businesses have been surviving on a decline in revenue of 90 percent since then and most businesses have experienced at least a 70 percent decline.

“Without ongoing support, our sector will be decimated, leaving Australian consumers with nowhere to turn to assist with the estimated $4 billion in refunds from global airlines, hotels and tour operators. Collapse of our sector will also leave the country without the skill set to support the COVID minefield of travel once the international border is liberated.

“Without tailored support we will see eight in 10 people still working in travel out of a job, and three in 10 businesses having to close with a further 52 percent uncertain about their future. We all understand the urgency and critical nature of resolving this.” 

AFTA CEO Darren Rudd said, "“The ongoing refinement of the COVID-19 support package to ensure equitable distribution of funds across the breadth of our sector is continuing as a priority and AFTA will keep on working daily with Austrade to make sure support gets to where it is so desperately needed. This is our major priority.”

A recent survey of 1513 AFTA members showed:

  • 67% are small and medium retail leisure agencies;
  • 94% are dealing with a decline in revenue of 90% (with 99% experiencing at least a 70% decline);
  • 80% of the workforce of travel agents businesses are women;
  • 81% of all travel businesses’ work is helping customers with COVID-impacted travel – there is still $4 Billion in refunds and credits which travel agents are working to repatriate from international airlines, hotels and tour operators on behalf of Australian consumers on top of the $6 billion already secured;
  • 43% believe they are unlikely to return to profit until 2023.

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THE Accommodation Association is supportive of the Victorian Government support measures announced today, saying they would provide "much needed relief for hotels, motels and accommodation providers hit hard by the state’s COVID restrictions, snap shutdowns and border closures"

Accommodation Association CEO Dean Long said, “On behalf of Victoria’s hotels, motels and accommodation providers, we welcome this acknowledgment from the State Government of the devastating impact of its coronavirus circuit-breaker strategy and look forward to continuing to work closely to get the balance right in successfully managing the risk. 

“Hotels and motels simply aren’t businesses that can stop and start suddenly," Mr Long said. "This most recent shutdown ahead of the Valentine Day weekend, one of the busiest times of the year, came after most dining and bar facilities and hotels had stocked up in anticipation.

"It would be great to get to the point where we had greater transparency around the decision frameworks all State and Territory Governments are using, including Victoria, so that we can appropriately plan.”

Mr Long said the Accommodation Association continued to work closely with Victoria’s Tourism Industry Council to ensure the tourism industry would receive support to offset the impact of Government-mandated closures.
 
The $143 million Circuit Breaker Support Package consists of:

  1. A new $92 million Business Costs Assistance Program with grants of $2000 for businesses in the tourism, hospitality, food wholesaling, events and selected retail industries with an annual payroll of up to $3 million;
  2. A $24.9 million boost to the Licensed Hospitality Venue Fund which will see previous recipients receive a one-off $3000 payment per premises;
  3. The $16.2 million Victorian Accommodation Support Program which recognises the hit of cancellations on regional and metropolitan accommodation providers allowing providers with 10 and under cancellations to apply for $2250 per business and those with more than 10 cancellations to apply for $4500 per business;
  4. A $10 million injection to expand the Regional Travel Voucher Scheme to include a new Melbourne Travel Voucher with 40,000 vouchers for $200 for travel in greater Melbourne plus an additional 10,000 vouchers in regional Victoria.

The Accommodation Association represents close to 3,500 hotels, motels and accommodation providers, over 150,000 rooms and nearly 100,000 employees across Australia (pre COVID) and over 500 operators in Victoria. Mr Long said accommodation contributed $17 billion to the Australian economy and $1.5 billion to the Victorian economy.

www.aaoa.com.au

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CARAVANS and camping are now the most popular holiday accommodation types for Australians coming to terms with an extended COVID travel environment.

Caravanning and camping accounts for 44 percent of all holiday nights across Australia, according to the latest insights from Tourism Research Australia (TRA) for the September 2020 quarter.

The insights revealed that more than 1.9 million caravan and camping holidays were undertaken by Australians nationally, creating 8.4 million nights for the September Quarter 2020 alone. 

While this represented national declines of –28% and –14% respectively from 2019, this was well ahead of broader tourism numbers.

Caravan Industry Association of Australia CEO Stuart Lamont said, “We welcome the comments by the Prime Minister earlier in the week on the importance of domestic tourism to Australia’s visitor economy and whilst caravan and camping visitor numbers still remain down on 2019, the latest data from TRA reaffirms the important role caravan and camping has in driving the economic recovery of the visitor economy.  

“We live in a world of fragile consumer confidence at present creating a two-speed economy. Whilst it is important that governments make health the first priority for Australians, concerns remain for those operators and communities in border towns, transit regions and remote locations that are continuing to feel the financial pain of border closures and are not enjoying the spoils of Australia’s fascination with the caravan and camping lifestyle.”

With the everchanging environment of border closures, the devastating and long-lasting impacts of last season’s bushfires, and challenges with accessing insurance, many businesses still face the real prospect of closure. 

"We call on government to look at other support programs as JobKeeper comes to an end in March, such as concessional funding for tourism operators that is paid back once a return to profit occurs coupled with increased access to business advisory services to help operators pivot to new opportunities and manage cashflow, as well as personal tax deductions for domestic holiday travel to encourage increase demand in support of these struggling businesses," Mr Lamont said.

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DOMESTIC TRAVEL has replaced less than 20 percent of the revenue received from international visitors, with most export tourism businesses reliant on the JobKeeper supplement to get them this far, according to the Australian Tourism Export Council’s (ATEC) industry Pulse Check taken in January.

With borders closed and export tourism businesses unable to access their international markets, 60 percent are running at less than 50 percent of their staff and service capacity, with most only surviving with the support of the JobKeeper supplement.

“Australian tourism businesses have hung on with the support of JobKeeper but face annihilation once the program ends next month if the government fails to provide further support,” ATEC managing director Peter Shelley said. The JobKeeper program is scheduled to wrap up at the end of March.

“Australia’s tourism industry has 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,” Mr Shelley said.

ATEC is now calling on the Federal Government to provide further financial support to the tourism industry and specifically the export tourism businesses which are unable to operate at anywhere near their previous levels.

“Tourism businesses were optimistic that by now international borders would be open and they would be seeing visitors return, but all indications are that these businesses face yet another tough year," he said. 

“State and Territory governments need to provide certainty in the way they respond to COVID outbreaks and a clear path to reopening international travel that appropriately manages the health risk and effective roll out of vaccines in order to give our industry certainty into the future.”

The export tourism industry Pulse Check looked at how Australia’s export tourism businesses have fared over the past 12 months.

The report found that around 60 percent of tourism businesses were running at less than 50 percent of staff and service capacity.

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

ATEC research shows about 55 percent of tourism businesses will not survive until September without some kind of government support, while international borders remain closed.

About 95 percent of inbound tour operators (ITOs), who are key tourism export intermediaries, have revenue of less than 10 percent compared with 2019.

Furthermore, 50 percent of ITOs are unable to attract domestic business and for those who have this represents less than 10 percent of their international markets.

ATEC predicts about 80 percent of ITOs "will be gone by September" without some kind of government support, making it much harder for the inbound tourism industry to restart.

 “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," Mr Shelley said.
 
“These are the same businesses which were instrumental in delivering $45 billion in export revenue in 2019 and delivering thousands of jobs to regional communities throughout the country and they will be the ones which will provide future jobs and economic prosperity.
 
“Given the success of our export tourism industry over the past decade which saw international visitors contributing more than $350 billion in our economy, we must ensure these businesses survive," he said.
 
“Once the borders reopen, these businesses will quickly rebound and once again contribute significantly to our export earnings, support regional economies and build back Australian jobs.”

www.atec.net.au

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THE Australian Tourism Export Council (ATEC) has congratulated Dan Tehan on his appointment to the role of Australian Minister for Tourism.

ATEC managing director Peter Shelley said Minister Tehan had been a long time supporter of the tourism industry, demonstrated by his previous role as the chair of the Coalition Friends of Tourism group which engages industry on government policy to helps drive tourism growth and jobs across many electorates. 

“His electorate of Wannon, being the home of the famous Twelve Apostles landmark in Victoria, Minister Tehan has had a long and engaged commitment to the tourism sector and understands its economic importance for hundreds of regional communities throughout Australia," Mr Shelley said.

“As we navigate the reopening of borders and what will be a hugely changed international marketplace, our industry’s ability to work with the Government will be vital and we look forward to building a strong relationship with Minister Tehan during this time.

“The past year has been a hugely challenging time for Australia’s tourism industry and our road to recovery will be long, particularly for those businesses primarily focused on the export sector,” he said.

“Australian tourism exports have fallen from $49 billion a year to next to nothing, but we are determined to see the restart of this hugely successful industry which contributes so much to our economy.

“The path ahead will be different from the one we have been on but it also provides us with an opportunity to reshape ourselves as the tourism industry of the future which embraces new technology, new markets and a new type of visitor."

ATEC has also welcomed the new Immigration Minister, Alex Hawke and Jonathan Duniam as Assistant Minister for Industry Development and thanked former Tourism Minister, Simon Birmingham "for the commitment he has shown to strengthening our industry and lifting the industry’s profile as an important economic contributor and look forward to our continued relationship as he moves to the Finance portfolio".

www.atec.net.au

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