Queensland travel agent warns of staff shortages as quarantine-free travel opens

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A veteran Queensland travel agent is warning of a looming ‘supply crisis’ as agents struggle to keep up with demand from the high number of people planning overseas holidays.

From 1am today quarantine-free international travel to Queensland for fully vaccinated people has resumed.

Travelers will not have to quarantine, provided they are fully vaccinated and have a negative COVID-19 rapid antigen test (RAT) result within 24 hours of entering the country .

The director of Main Beach Travel on the Gold Coast, Mike Dwyer, said one in three travel agencies had closed since the COVID-19 pandemic hit in early 2020.

“We are already struggling to meet existing demand, which is really just the tip of the iceberg.”

The industry veteran said people who want to travel abroad need to start thinking about it as soon as possible.

“About half of our incoming calls are from travelers stranded overseas who need help rearranging their flights home,” Dwyer said.

Mike Dwyer fears there is an impending shortage of agents to serve overseas travellers.(Provided: Mike Dwyer)

“I’m really concerned about our industry and the lack of travel agencies and the lack of support for the industry.

“As demand increases, we are going to encounter a supply shortage, as there are not enough agents to help people make their plans.”

Mr Dwyer opened his business in 2000 and said his aim was to serve outbound travellers.

“Australians have always been great travelers and many people have had their plans canceled over the past couple of years.

“There are a lot of people with family in Europe that they haven’t seen for two years.”

The travel business owner said quarantine-free travel will now give more people the confidence to book holidays.

a closed travel agency displays closed signs on its doors
Mr Dwyer says one in three agencies have closed during the COVID-19 pandemic.(AAP: Mick Tsikas)

“One of the biggest obstacles to traveling abroad was the fear of going home and being quarantined for two weeks,” he said.

“Removing this restriction makes things much better for people who want to travel abroad.

“I think people have lost faith in the consistency of the rules, so there will still be a lot of nervousness.”

Logistic challenges

Mr Dwyer said COVID-related challenges meant more people were choosing to book through a travel agency rather than handling bookings themselves.

“Each country has its own rules and regulations.

“In addition to this, airlines have specific requirements for testing 24 or 48 hours before a flight.”

Passengers wearing face masks walk out of an airport tunnel
Chris Mills says it could take months for airlines to restore international connections. (PA: James Ross)

Inbound travel

On inbound travel, Queensland Airports chief executive Chris Mills said he expected a trickle, not a flood, of international travelers to arrive at tourist destinations including the Gold Coast.

“What we expect [is] Starting from February ; we are working with the airlines to encourage them to restore connections with countries that are doing quite well.”

Mr Mills said countries such as New Zealand, Singapore, Japan and South Korea would be given priority.
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