They e-book our journey and save us from catastrophe – now the journey agent is beneath menace

Save yourself a thought for the unsung heroes of our vacation: the humble travel agency.

Almost 98 percent of our 4,000 agents have decimated their business and have suffered a 90 percent decline in sales since the pandemic.

They have been out of income since March, but they have the arduous task of managing cancellations and refunds estimated at $ 10 billion for four million Australians.

But the grinding costs continue.

Traveltrends.biz quoted a broker who paid $ 280,000 a year for a 100 square meter store and $ 400,000 for a fixture. so well over $ 600,000 to get the business going. This agent recently closed.

No wonder Flight Center cut another 91 stores last week – meaning more than half of its stores have closed.

“Travel agents are at the forefront of helping consumers through the challenging, time-consuming, and complex process of managing cancellations and credits, securing refunds, and sometimes rebooking. Bookings valued at an estimated 4 billion US dollars have yet to be processed on behalf of consumers, ”the Australian Association of Travel Agents reported in a report to the federal government.

“Each booking can take weeks to resolve, with refunds from providers often taking months. It is work that travel agencies mostly do for zero income. Without the tailored support and relief for businesses, business closings will follow, as many agents have seen sales declines of at least 90 percent since the border closings were introduced in March. “

AFTA is campaigning for $ 125 million government support.

“The Australian government has a number of industries including construction companies through the Homebuilder program ($ 688 million), the arts and entertainment ($ 250 million), film and television ($ 400 million) and the Aviation industry (USD 1.1 billion) targeted support). AFTA is now seeking specific assistance for the travel distribution industry in Australia. “

The Cruise Lines International Association spends a lot of effort training agents. Cruise is a complex travel product that is frequently booked and often includes flights, hotels, transfers, and excursions.

“Travel agents handle the vast majority of cruise bookings in Australia and New Zealand. Due to current travel restrictions and the end of cruise operations, travel agencies are struggling to survive. That is why we have emphatically advocated it on their behalf.

“Cruising supports around 25,000 jobs in Australia and New Zealand, many of which are travel agencies. We have highlighted the plight of travel agencies through our government agency efforts and in much of our public communications, and we will continue to work towards a responsible resumption of cruise operations in our area so that we can restore incomes for travel agents and other cruise-dependent businesses are, ”said Joel Katz, CLIA Managing Director.

The future of stationary cruises travel agents is now in question as more agents are forced to operate from home.

This then begs the question of whether the current model of travel agents receiving their commissions only when their customers take their cruises will survive.

According to AFTA, the industry is working on introducing a “more sustainable compensation structure including a transparent service fee”.

AFTA CEO Darren Rudd said, “Travel agents don’t get most of their commission until after the trip actually takes place. This applies to all bookings and not just to cruises.

“Many agents had already introduced a processing fee, but there is also an urge for a new approach that better fits the new standard once we know what it is.”

This means that an agent can charge a direct fee when booking cruise routes, shore excursions, and flights as part of the total price of the vacation, rather than waiting for their commissions to be paid at a later date.

Justine Sealey, Managing Director of Ramsgate Travel Service in Sydney, said, “The way travel agents generate income in the future is sure to change. The way most retail travel agents operate is out of date as we rely on our primary source of income from third parties and do not charge reasonable professional fees for our knowledge, expertise and 24 hour service when customers are away. “

Ms. Sealey, who has been with Ramsgate Travel for over 30 years, added that brokers also lose commissions on the original bookings when ensuring cancellations and refunds for their customers.

“All of the commission, which in many cases was earned in late 2019 or the first quarter of 2020, has been recalled and returned to customers, even though this income has already been spent on wages, rents and operating costs.

“We have now made ZERO money on the originally confirmed booking that was there, and we also made nothing for the time we spent making the changes.

“These changes were certainly not the fault of the customer or us – but who is the loser – the travel agency.”

Ms. Sealey said agents have been doing “community service” for cancellations for the past six months and Ramsgate has “charged a very modest refund fee averaging $ 110 per person.

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