Making a plan on a whiteboard


Yesterday was World Tourism Day. Normally we would be celebrating as we would be coming to the end of our busiest period of the year and having a bit of a rest before the busy Christmas/Northern hemisphere ski season really kicks in.

World Tourism Day 2020 was just another blurring day in another blurry week, in yet another blurry month. The last 7-8 months have just been one big blur of processing cancellations and refunds. Thank you Covid-19.

Any “green shoots” of recovery have been stomped out quicker that you can say “Roundup”. Borders open, borders close, borders open, borders close in a never-ending game of musical chairs with different state governments play out their daily agendas on TV in their daily updates…all based on science. (Why is it that every State has the same science & data, that they have come to completely different conclusions? But that is a discussion for another day)

The only certain thing is uncertainty.

Uncertainty breeds anxiousness. The travelling public is anxious about traveling. They don’t know where they can travel, if they have to quarantine, where they are allowed to quarantine, or when they can travel overseas.

Australians love to explore and travel to the far corners of the world. Go to any remote village in the mountains of the Andes or take a dip in the Dead Sea and you are likely to hear “Gday” in that familiar nasal tone.

The government is hoping that the $65 billion that Australians spend on overseas travel, will be spent locally. This is very unlikely as people won’t do a direct financial swap of a 4 week, multi-destinational European holiday with a week up on the Gold Coast (although some domestic product is almost priced as much – I’m looking at you Broome!).

The current state of anxiousness is causing travellers to pack up their things and retreat to their own beach retreats. The only sector booming is Boomers in their caravans.

As much as the government want Australians to explore their own backyard (and they should), most Australians still want to head abroad. We want what we cant have.

The desire for international travel is stronger than ever. The most common question I get is “When can we travel overseas again?”

It’s a question that I cannot answer because in all the government’s daily briefings, the topic of international borders is rarely mentioned. We have been shut down with no idea of when we can reopen. We have been locked up with no possibility of parole.

We are doing the time, but I don’t even remember doing the crime.

There is no roadmap in opening up the runways. There doesn’t seem to be a plan on how we are going to open up the country to the big wide world. They say that “no man is an island”, but it turns out that Australia is, and behaving like one. The tyranny of distance should be a blessing as travellers are prepared to isolate in this isolated land once they return, if need be.

At what stage are we going to open up the external borders? We cant keeping partying like its 1899. The world is now global, and we are global citizens.

Most travel agencies are “international facing”. The majority of our income is derived from designing, booking and facilitating international travel.

The domestic tourism industry appears to have turned its back on the local travel agent with the domestic airlines cancelling all commissions, making it more expensive to book through a travel agent, and many accommodation/hotels only accepting direct bookings, or bookings from international booking engines like Expedia, Wotif, Stayz etc who send the profits directly offshore. To rub salt into the wound, many state tourism bodies have actually partnered with these international booking engines to push business their way and bypassing their own local businesses, the travel agent. (I’m looking at you SA Tourism and Tourism WA).

The travel industry is not the tourism industry – hence the term “travel & tourism”. Tourism is the destination; travel is the journey. So, when the Tourism sector receive their much needed grants, this money does not flow through to the Travel sector.

The 3,000 travel agencies in Australia employ approx. 40,000 people. It is a robust and vibrant industry, not a dying sector that has been killed off by the internet, as many people think. But it is currently flatlining.

To get the travel industry back, we need international borders to be opened. While we know that health should come before profits, most agency owners would just be happy to know that there is a plan, so we can plan.

We are not looking for a handout, we are looking for a plan.

Where’s the plan?


The Don’t Forget Travel Group is a boutique travel agency that plans and curates custom-made holidays.

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