TOUGH TIMES: (L) Joe Minnegal from Helloworld Hervey Bay, Marite Behrendorff from Aspire Travel and Cruise, Darelle Loore de Jong from Fraser Coast Travel Centre, and Mark McKenzie from Hervey Bay Travel and Transit Centre. Photo: Stuart Fast
TOUGH TIMES: (L) Joe Minnegal from Helloworld Hervey Bay, Marite Behrendorff from Aspire Travel and Cruise, Darelle Loore de Jong from Fraser Coast Travel Centre, and Mark McKenzie from Hervey Bay Travel and Transit Centre. Photo: Stuart Fast

‘WE’RE SINKING’: Travel industry’s SOS to the government

THE coronavirus pandemic has hit industries hard and four Fraser Coast travel agents say their industry has found itself in the firing line.

Travel agents Joe Minnegal, Murray McKenzie, Darelle Looren de Jond and Marita Behrendoff say there has been a lack of support from the government as they struggle to keep up with business costs and refunding customers.

Mr Minnegal, travel and operations manager of Helloworld Hervey, said the tourim industry couldn't go into hiberantion like some others.

"Every time the government changes the deadline of opening or shutting, it's another whole group of bookings cancelled and we have to start the process of chasing refunds," he said.

In addition to the State Government's Queensland is Good to Go campaign, Mr Minnegal said "they help us in one fell swoop by saying 'book through your travel agency'".

Mr McKenzie is the manager of Hervey Bay Travel and Transit Centre said while travel had significantly declined, operational costs hadn't.

"All of our overheads come up, your phone bills, your printed contracts, electricity, rent, insurance keeps coming in," he said.

"It's got to be recognised it is a special, unique set of problems travel agents and owners face."

Mr Minnegal criticised the State Government's handling of support grants.

Because his business was successful in securing a much-needed grant earlier in the year, he can't apply for another now.

A spokesman for the Department of State Development, Tourism and Innovation said the government was supportive.

"Should there be an individual or industry group seeking assistance, Tourism is again keen to hear from them," he said.

"It maintains regular engagement with local and regional tourism bodies."

When asked about what the next elected government could do to support the travel industry, Looren de Jong, who runs Fraser Coast Travel Centre said her industry just wanted to feel supported.

"My wish for the government as of next Saturday is to stand up, listen to us and help us," she said.

"We are now sinking, we need help, whether it be state, federal... help us help the consumers."

Mr Minnegal encouraged people to visit their travel agents, citing the professionalism and experience the service offers.

"We can service people's bookings, service them, chase refunds, give them advice... as far as travelling locally, we can make bookings, offer the best advice," he said.

"We know the traps, we know what the pitfalls are, we can save people quite a bit of money."

Mr Minnegal said travel agents wanted to stick around for the long-term, but needed support.

"We're here, we're still working for our clients past, present and future and we will be here in the future," he said.

"We need help from the public, and more importantly, from the government."

The spokesman for the Department of State Development, Tourism and Innovation said since the onset of the COVID-19 pandemic, the Queensland Government has committed $8 billion in initiatives to manage both the health response, and to support businesses and families and protect local jobs.

"This includes industry support packages, job-support loans, relief on certain government fees, charges and taxes and worker retraining and placement initiatives," he said.



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