TOD COLLINS has been a travel agent in Echuca-Moama for 44 years, sat on national boards for travel and tourism—and the Echuca-Moama Tourism board.
He owned and operated the Paddlesteamer Canberra for 12 years as well as Echuca Sunshine Holiday Villas. The former Echuca City councillor is also a committee member of C4EM.
IN THE coronavirus crisis and its trail of collateral damage, the travel and tourism industries have been hit the hardest, there is no denying that.
This second round of COVID-19 in Victoria is very deflating as we were just beginning to see a slow return to client enquiries and confidence in booking again.
But this latest round of crackdowns has definitely set the industry back again.
While every business has been impacted to some degree, this has been very hard on all the local travel agents, they all have had to reduce staff levels and take up JobKeeper.
In some cases there has been almost a 100 per cent reduction in new bookings for domestic and international travel.
Agents are working with airlines, cruise operators, hotels, rail and other companies to arrange refunds or credits for future travel. The delays on refunds is about 12-16 weeks; with some airlines advising waits up to six months.
Domestic travel has already started to open up for most states — just not Victoria.
If Victoria can get on top of this outbreak, hopefully it will be included by September.
Within Australia, Great Southern Rail, which operates The Indian Pacific, The Ghan, The Overland and The Great Southern rail trips, has many package deals available now for booking. There are many domestic packages on sale to promote local Australian travel.
As well as strong talk around ‘safe travel bubbles’ towards the end of the year and this may include New Zealand, the South Pacific Islands and perhaps Singapore.
Cruise companies operating ocean and river cruises have been hit very hard, here in Australia and internationally.
I believe going forward cruising will be safer and cleaner than ever before.
There will be some incredible deals for 2021/2022/2023 that would include cruise with confidence options such as refundable deposits and options allowing cancellation up to 24 hours before departure.
This will mean people can book now and take advantage of the deals by only paying a small, refundable deposit.
I am equally certain we will see some amazing deals from airlines, hotels, island resorts, rail and cruise companies for travel within Australia, and then to the safe bubble approved areas.
Bargain hunters should keep checking in with their local travel agents to ask about all the deals as they become available.
Most airlines, cruise companies and hotel chains and the whole hospitality industry are restructuring to survive.
There will be reduced capacity across all areas for the next 12 months, but they are all hoping to be back to normal operating levels by mid-2021.
This could be earlier as restrictions are lifted. There should be some amazing airfare prices to boost the airline and travel industry.
People should check all the health, visa and other requirements needed for their future travel plans and always have a current passport.
And it is always best to check on the Australian Government website smartraveller.gov.au for current updates for Australians to travel; and includes details of most countries and their travel entry requirements.
I think domestic travel is now available to most people and states will reopen their borders in the next three months, allowing people to take advantage of many of the great deals available within our own backyard.
Internationally will be slow to start by Christmas and 2021 should see the Australian Government slowly open up countries as they meet the health requirements we all expect.
Remember to spend your money wisely and buy lifetime experiences, and to always deal with your local and experienced travel agent who is there to assist and plan your holiday requirements.
If this pandemic has proved anything, it is that a travel agent is your best asset, the team at Echuca Travel Centre have worked tirelessly in the past four months to restructure and refund client dream holidays and this will continue into the months ahead.