Worry for Redlands travel agents as health boss says overseas travel unlikely in 2021

TRAVEL: Qantas opened international bookings from July but health boss Brendan Murphy says it is unlikely there will be widespread overseas travel this year.
TRAVEL: Qantas opened international bookings from July but health boss Brendan Murphy says it is unlikely there will be widespread overseas travel this year.

INTERNATIONAL borders are likely to remain closed for most of 2021, with the news causing worry for local travel agents after a crippling year.

Health Department secretary Brendan Murphy told the ABC on Monday that it was unlikely there would be widespread overseas travel this year.

"Even if we have a lot of the population vaccinated, we don't know whether that will prevent transmission of the virus," he said.

A spokesman from Helloworld Travel Capalaba said international travel restrictions would cause a lot of headache for travel agencies.

"We were hoping in mid to late 2021, with the vaccine, borders would be opening back up," he said.

"QANTAS had enabled people to book international flights from July.

"For brick and mortar travel agencies, 80 per cent of our business is international travel."

Deputy Prime Minister Michael McCormack said on Tuesday the government wanted to see international flights resume but not if it posed a health risk.

"We also want to make sure that we continue to have the health outcomes here in Australia that we've had," he said.

The Tourism and Transport Forum is pushing for the federal government to provide more payroll support for the industry once JobKeeper ends in March.

The Helloworld Travel spokesman said 2021 was expected to be a bigger challenge than 2020, with uncertainty around what support would be available.

"Last year, our challenge was giving out refunds for people's travel, but then we had support from the government, support for our lease, a cash boost from the ATO, and that kept us afloat," he said.

"JobKeeper is finishing up and there is no clear direction for support for our industry."

Prime Minister Scott Morrison said the government would work with affected sectors to make sure support was delivered in the most effective way.

Tourism and Transport Forum chief executive Margy Osmond also called for national protocols around state border restrictions.

Queensland's snap border closure before Christmas wreaked havoc with holidaymakers in Sydney, who scrambled to get home.

The Helloworld Travel spokesman said state borders opening and closing was causing more grief for the industry.

"We understand why it is happening but it's bad for consumer confidence," he said.

"People with disposable cash aren't considering holidays because there's uncertainty around the borders."

He said the job of travel agents was changing to meet the needs of the community.

"A lot of people are coming through our doors for simple bookings. The call waiting time for airlines is huge and a lot of people are moving from online to retail travel," he said.

"Helloworld Travel Capalaba has been open through the whole of COVID and intend to stay (past) 2022.

"We also helped out customers of other stores that closed or partially closed due to (the) COVID situation.

"The rules (around travel and quarantine) keep changing and people can get lost in the jargon."

They said travellers should seek expert advice on changes.