‘There’s still uncertainty’: Travel agents blast government’s vague plan for international travel

international travel

Travel agents welcome the government’s move to lift the international travel ban from late November but the lack of detail is deterring travellers from making bookings.

Anna Shannon, a former travel agent who founded the website Travel Agent Finder in January, says while she has noticed a “buzz in the air”, Australians are hesitant to make bookings when most of the country is still in lockdown.

“It’s quite hard to understand how we’re going to be flying again in a matter of weeks,” Shannon tells SmartCompany.

“I think everyone wants it to be true but there’s still a lot of uncertainty,” she adds.

A plan lacking in detail

On Friday, Prime Minister Scott Morrison said international travel would gradually restart in the coming months as states reach 80% vaccination.

When states meet the target, fully vaccinated Australians will be able to travel, with NSW expected to be the first cab off the rank in November ahead of Victoria.

Despite the announcement, Shannon says travel businesses and consumers need more detail before activity can return to the industry.

After working for Flight Centre for nine years, Shannon’s contract expired during the pandemic leading her to launch a digital marketing business.

In January, she founded a second business Travel Agent Finder, anticipating demand for travel when restrictions ease. The website helps travellers connect with specialist travel agents.

But Shannon says information about ongoing passenger caps, testing requirements and details about quarantine for citizens and visa holders is still lacking.

“It’s not as straightforward as just switching on the lights,” she says.

Aussies eager to get to Bali and London

Signs that Australians are eager to travel overseas are starting to emerge, with data from a travel website revealing Bali and London are frequently searched destinations.

Booking.com’s Back to Travel report shows international destinations ranking on Australians’ search lists for the first time since the Delta outbreak began.

Greater London and Bali are featuring in the top ten regional destinations searched, along with Queensland, Western Australia and NSW.

The travel industry hopes this pent up demand will drive recovery in the hard-hit sector once the government scraps the international travel ban.

According to the Australian Federation of Travel Agents (AFTA), Australians spent over $46 billion on international travel in 2018-19 and 70% of that travel was booked through local travel agents.

Tom Manwaring, AFTA chair, said the Prime Minister’s announcement that travel would resume from late November “is the best news” the industry has heard all year.

“However, along with eliminating airline seat caps, the aim must be quickly removing all hurdles for all approved, vaccinated inbound passengers to access rapid testing,” he said in a statement.

AFTA is calling on the government to provide urgent and ongoing help to travel agencies while travel gradually increases.

“Until international travel normalises, the 30,000 Australians who work in Australia’s travel sector and the 3000 agencies and businesses who employ them urgently need ongoing help,” he said.

“Without a travel agent, you really are on your own.”

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