How your cancellation is crippling an industry

A SURGE in cancellations has many travel agents like Erin Sheehan concerned for the future of their industry.

The owner of Broad Horizons Travel in Yamba said she was bracing for difficult challenges ahead as the coronavirus pandemic continues to impact business.

"The amount of cancellations and refunds that we have had to deal with is unprecedented," she said.

"We have an enormous workload of non-income bearing work to do."

Owner of Broad Horizons Travel in Yamba Erin Sheehan
Owner of Broad Horizons Travel in Yamba Erin Sheehan

Tours, cruises and now flights have been cancelled in an effort to combat the virus. Added to this more restrictions in place for travellers including a 14-day self-isolation period for those arriving or returning to Australia. For most, it's easier to just scratch the trip and try again next year. But for travel agents, the sheer volume of cancellations has begun to cripple businesses.

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"When a customer's travel arrangements have been cancelled by the operator, the customer is entitled to a full refund," Ms Sheehan explained.

"This typically means that the supplier will refund us the nett fare paid, and then we have to recall the commission that we have already earned, sometimes months ago. Just imagine that for a second: we have to give back money that we have already earned."

To add insult to injury, a recent Channel 9 News segment alleged some travel agencies were "slugging passengers with cancellation fees" which Ms Sheehan said was completely uncalled for.

"It was extremely insulting and upsetting because they failed to understand our role and instead paint us as the bad guys," she said.

"We personally are staring down the barrel of seven-to-nine months of zero cash flow. I've already had to cut my staff's hours and many agencies will likely close down during or after this crisis."

For those still deciding what to do with their upcoming travel plans, Ms Sheehan said there were much better alternatives than simply cancelling all together.

"Just postpone your plans or do something else closer to home," she said.

"We've got such beautiful places in Australia to explore."