TOM Manwaring, Interim Executive Chair, Australian Federation of Travel Agent
As we reach the end of the financial year, and 16 months of living (or surviving!) with COVID, it’s timely to reflect.
We can and should be extremely proud of the way our sector has come together so successfully to push for support. While these times have, and no doubt will continue to be testing for us as individuals, as businesses and across our sector and beyond, we have achieved much.
Our combined effort from members meeting with parliamentarians in their electorate offices through to AFTA’s ongoing direct lobbying and engagement has meant that now more than ever before our decision makers and policy makers know we matter. AFTA has directly, and in collaboration with other groups, made sure our needs for ongoing support are heard. So far we have secured $258 million in Federal Government support. We are very grateful for this and for the ongoing ear of The Hon Dan Tehan, The Minister for Trade, Tourism and Investment.
We continue to advocate daily for ongoing help. Until international travel resumes, that aid is critical for so many of our travel businesses and the skilled travel professionals who work within them.
As the rapid spread of the Delta strain in recent days has shown, elimination of this virus, at least in the immediate future, is simply not going to happen. Vaccination of most of the population is at the heart of our ability to function and travel normally. We look to the precedent our near neighbour Singapore is setting. Singapore’s roadmap to return to normalcy is based on the reality that two-thirds of the community will have received at least one vaccine dose within weeks and be fully vaccinated by early August. Singapore intends treating COVID like the flu, with an end to quarantine, an end to close contacts of cases having to isolate and a transition to self-administered tests.
There’s no doubt that we need more of the Australian community vaccinated. We need incentives to lift the current 4.7% of the population vaccinated to over the majority. We need as many Australians as possible to be travel ready so that we can all get travelling again.