From Jayson Westbury, chief executive AFTA
The past month has been without doubt an absolute shocker for the entire travel industry and it is hard to believe so much can actually happen in such a short period of time.
Having said that, for the most of us the past month feels like it has taken forever as we work from home, self-isolate, unpack the wide range of government COVID-19 support packages, deal with cancellations and refunds for clients, rearrange the business, rearrange our lives — it just seems like so much.
But, it is now May and if there is one good thing about that, it is that all of these problems become normal.
As we progress into our stride of being an industry so dramatically impacted by this virus, but resolved to find a way out, I honestly believe we will find a way forward by starting with the acceptance that the situation we are in is here for a while.
Unfortunately, many in the travel industry are hurting more than others in the wider economy, and from AFTA’s perspective we have been working with so many members and industry stakeholders at these very difficult times.
One such difficult situation is the necessary change we have made to the AFTA Chargeback Scheme which has gone into a hibernation mode with a hope for it to return in 2021. This remains to be confirmed and will be led somewhat by the travelling circumstances for Australians and if the payment landscape looks the same coming out of COVID-19 as it did going in. Of course, for all the ACS participants the good thing is that transactions that were made prior to 1 May will hold the cover offered and this will remain in place till 31 December.
A global pandemic brings so many complex settings and it is clear that nobody at any level across the entire economy planned for such an impact and ACS is not isolated from this challenge.
As government and industry start to talk about the road out of COVID-19, one thing that the industry should encourage is downloading the Government’s COVIDSafe app.
I have downloaded it and it seems to me that the government is more likely to open up Australia, get people moving and be more willing to consider how and when we will be allowed to travel again based on this app’s functionality.
I know that there are mixed views about this app from a privacy and trust perspective and I make no statement as to the choice people make in relation to selecting to downloading it or not.
However I would say that if the government does not get its target of 40% of the population downloading it, I suspect we will have a longer time before we see a dramatic lifting of social distancing measures and mass gatherings, and longer time until we see travel restrictions lifted.
In addition to this, we need people to be confident to travel and if this app provides results along the lines that have been outlined, perhaps our road out of this becomes a highway than a slow country road.