Travel agents and tourism operators across Central Victoria have been let down by the Morrison Government’s COVID-19 Consumer Travel Support Program.
Federal Member for Bendigo, Lisa Chesters is calling for the Morrison Government to urgently fix flaws in the program before local businesses lay off staff or close all together.
“I was pleased to hear that the Morrison Government offered a lifeline to this struggling industry, but as usual, the devil is in the detail,” Chesters said.
“There’s a defect in the system which needs to be overhauled, it’s short-changing travel agents by thousands of dollars and simply won’t help keep their businesses open.
Differences within the sector as to how annual turnover is reported has created vast discrepancies in potential grant amounts.
The one-off grant is meant to be based on GST turnover, but after submitting applications, local businesses received a grant amount based on their income instead.
For one local agent, this discrepancy means the difference between $9,000 and almost $100,000 and they cannot get a clear answer.
“Mr Morrison must also extend JobKeeper for industries like travel and tourism.
“Jobs will be lost if JobKeeper is not extended and businesses may close if the faults in the COVID-19 Consumer Travel Support Program are not fixed.
“At the end of the day, Australians are being told that international travel is off the cards for 2021.
“Australian’s are still hesitant to book travel because of potential border closures and restrictions,” Chesters said.
John Fitzpatrick from iTalk Travel and Cruise Bendigo said their revenue has dropped by around 95 percent over the last 12 months and the travel support package has only left him more disappointed.
“I’m thankful that the JobKeeper program has been able to keep by business open, but that will end in March and the recent travel industry support package does not seem like it will provide any refuge,” Mr Fitzpatrick said.
“The very welcome support fund was put together quickly, but it seems very poorly as well.
“There is great disquiet in the travel industry as the design of the fund means some businesses will be assessed on turnover, while others are assessed on income.
“We have not been able to get clear advice from any of the government departments we have contacted.