Since March travel agents have experienced a dramatic downturn in business.
Travel On Crown, Hello World Travel and Internet Travel in Crown Street Mall are among those who have been hanging on with the help of JobKeeper.
So when Australian Federation of Travel Agents chief executive Darren Rudd, Federal Member for Cunningham Sharon Bird and NSW Member for Wollongong Paul Scully visited them on Tuesday it was a boost for morale.
Aware of how COVID-19 restrictions and domestic border closures continue to have a devastating impact on businesses in their electorates Ms Bird and Mr Scully were keen to hear firsthand from owners, managers and staff about how they were coping. And learn more about the kind of tailored support needed for them to survive.
"All the travel agents we visited in Wollongong this morning are losing money," Mr Rudd said.
"With international and domestic borders still closed there is no way to make money and they are giving back refunds. Nationally the industry is sitting at about $6 billion in refunds this year and there is still $4 billion to go. They are all hurting. This is the hardest time these businesses have experienced."
Mr Rudd said the Federal Government's JobKeeper program and a NSW government small business grant had helped them keep the doors open and staff employed but more help was needed.
"We are approaching the Federal Government now for $125 million to these travel agents who are being prevented from earning any income," he said.
Mr Rudd said during the visit to three travel agents in the mall on Tuesday some good ideas being made by staff.
"We had a great suggestion from one of the Hello World Travel employees that they are happy to sit here and do contact tracing and help the community by diversifying the role they perform".
Travel on Crown owner Jonathan Hickman said six months ago he thought the lockdown might only last for weeks and the industry might gradually recover but all his team have done since March is process refunds.
"We have been trying to keep in contact with our clients to tell them about all the processes along the way through this and we are now talking to people who were planning to go away in November or December."
Mr Hickman said it will be very difficult to survive without further assistance or a vaccine so borders can reopen. He employs four people and will do everything he can to not cut back their hours.
Ms Bird said travel agents have been writing to her to explain how hard they are working and doing the best to help customers who are also stressed.
"All the travel agents we visited this morning have used JobKeeper to keep staff on," she said.
"I appreciate their feedback and will take it back to the Government particularly as they develop the budget. It is quite clear this is a sector that is not going to bounce back".
As the son of someone who had a business in the travel industry Mr Scully said he understood how tough it was in the sector. He said travel agents were right at the tail end of any recovery and needed more help now.
Mr Scully said all the employees he spoke to were encouraged by the visit and told him how they just wanted to keep working.
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