From the publisher


By Bruce Piper

There’s such a fine line between clever and stupid, so it is said — and I fear the travel industry’s latest desperate pleas for Government assistance may be getting very close to crossing that line.

Last month the tireless warriors in the Australian Travel Industry Lobby Group on Facebook managed to elicit some mainstream support for their cause, with networking group Small Business Australia widely circulating the results of a survey about the future of the industry.

The sensational figures, which gained strong traction in TV and newspaper reports, clearly laid out the necessity for ongoing support for the sector, but unfortunately did so by heavily promoting the notion that nine out of 10 travel agencies in the country will close on 1 April, once the current JobKeeper program winds up.

Journalists lapped up the 750 survey responses, which Small Business Australia extrapolated across an estimated 3,000 travel agencies to sensationally claim that would mean 2,600 of them would no longer exist, and in turn about 30,000 people will join the unemployment queue.

Putting aside the very rubbery nature of the survey — and in particular its patently unlikely implication that every one of those 2,600 agencies still employs about 12 staff — I fear that the overall outcome is likely to be counterproductive.

While it’s been great to see how much coverage the issue has generated, there has also been disquiet among some agents who have now had longstanding clients come to them asking for existing travel bookings to be refunded — so that they can go ahead and book direct with suppliers, just in case their agent is one of the many set to close.

It’s all very well to seek Government handouts, but the bottom line is that even if the largesse is extended beyond April, all it’s doing is helping businesses survive until they can start trading again.

Announcing far and wide that 90% of travel agents are unlikely to exist in the future because of COVID-19 is not a wise thing to do when in fact, what we all need is to build consumer confidence in booking via the agent channel.


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