Travel agent ready to take flight

Helloworld Travel Sunbury store manager Joanne Langdon (second from right) is ecstatic to be back in store with her co-workers. (Damjan Janevski)

Following months of working from home, Helloworld Travel Sunbury staff are finally back in store.

Before the outbreak of COVID-19 in Australia in early 2020, the travel agency located in Sunbury Square Shopping Centre had a predominant focus on international travel.

But as store manager Joanne Langdon explains, the nature and content of their work changed dramatically when government mandated restrictions blew up many people’s travel dreams.

“Since March 2020, we haven’t been dealing with a lot of new international bookings, but we’ve had a lot of customers that need to change their bookings or require a store credit,” Ms Langdon said.

“We did move to a domestic focus and had a lot of bookings. Some of these went ahead in windows without lockdown, but it’s been a minefield of changing regulations.”

According to the Australian Federation of Travel Agents, travel agents have facilitated more than $6 billion in refunds for overseas airlines, hotels and tour operators throughout the pandemic, many doing so while not turning a profit on new bookings.

Ms Langdon said it had been a difficult period, working through the financial logistics of travel cancellations with upset customers.

But despite the challenges, which included a reduction in working hours, Ms Langdon said her staff qualified for government support, and she only had one employee seek alternative employment.

Now with international travel back on the cards for Victorian, Ms Langdon said the store has come alive again with people eager to book some time abroad.

“Vaccination rates have been great, so we’re very optimistic, many borders will be opening to Victoria in the next month or so,” she said.

“People will have a much better opportunity to travel next year so we’ve already got a lot of people inquiring.

“Fiji has been really popular, we’re selling a lot of tour programs, not just for 2021, but 2022 and 2023 as well.”

By Oliver Lees