IT didn’t happen overnight, but it did happen. After what seemed to be a never ending struggle to get our political leaders to see sense when it came to the recommencement of international cruising, the decision by Health Minister Greg Hunt to relinquish the extraordinary powers he has been able to exercise through the pandemic could not have come a moment sooner.
The lifting of the Biosecurity Emergency Determination when it expires on 17 April will also have the highly desired effect of eliminating any need for COVID-19 testing of inbound passengers, and has come with the endorsement of the all-powerful medical advice from the Australian Health Protection Principal Committee (AHPPC).
Now hopefully the travel and tourism sector can being to heal, with us all continuing to lick our wounds after more than two years of feeling particularly singled out in terms of the impact of COVID-19 on our lives.
Ironically, just as the restrictions are lifting and activity resumes, travel agents and tour arrangement service providers have been granted what would have been an even more valuable lifeline several months ago, in the form of a third tranche of the COVID-19 Consumer Travel Support Program (CTSP). After damning testimony in a Senate Committee from an Austrade official who claimed the full $258 million allocation under the first two rounds of the program had “simply not been needed,” the Government seems to have been backed into a corner on this issue, and the outcome is a great credit to our industry leaders, particularly AFTA which uncovered the telling Parliamentary testimony.
So where to from here? There’s no doubt COVID-19 has irrevocably changed the industry. But not all change is bad, and one element that I believe is an improvement is a growing acceptance among both clients and travel agents themselves that it’s worth paying for the advice, expertise and experience that a professional advisor can offer.
Commission cuts by airlines seem to be accompanied by a similar rise in complaints about call centre wait times, which can only further reinforce the value a travel agent adds to the trip booking process.