Passionate about travel

Passionate about travel
Rhonda Dredge

It could take a while before the pleasure of overseas travel beats the uncertainties of permits, vaccination passports, quarantine, bubbles and ticketing complications but don’t give up.

Local travel agent Andrew Allen has taken a punt himself and booked a ticket to London on Emirates for December 6.

He’ll be back on December 22 on Qantas, the round trip costing him $2800 but it was worth it.

North Melbourne’s convivial travel agent is going home at long last to see his parents, both in their 90s and survivors of the pandemic.

“They’re in hood health,” he said. “They’ve stayed indoors. Next week they’re going in for boosters for the winter.”

As the travel industry moves into recovery mode, those in the know are still doing their sums.

Some 20 per cent of the $10 billion owed by foreign airlines to Australian travellers still hasn’t been returned and there is currently just one carrier with availability on return flights, namely Qantas.

Andy, as he is known to his local customers, has been forced to trade from his home in Taylors Lakes, with just a small notice on his former Queensberry St office reminding his clients that he still exists.

In a bizarre twist of fate, Hello World did a deal with the government so that Andy and his colleague found themselves working four days a week in a COVID call centre giving people advice on vaccines and how to get permits to go interstate.

That makes Andy the go-to man for travel, both internal and external. He was forced to pay top dollar for his own fare back to the UK because he had to buy two one-way tickets.

Andy has worked in North Melbourne for 24 years and has plenty of clients, but he still hasn’t made one single leisure booking for them, even though Qantas has announced it will be flying out of Melbourne on December 18.

He’s advised travellers to start planning but not to book yet. “You still need a permit to leave Australia,” he said.

He predicts that there’ll be more certainty by the end of October. “I’ve put my clients on a list. As soon as Morrison makes an announcement, I’ll make the bookings.”

Corporate clients and VFR (visiting friends and relatives) travellers will be first off the rank, he predicts, even though there is nothing actually stopping holidaymakers from making a booking now.

A Qantas fare to London in mid-March, returning a month later, costs $1816, with no financial risk because all current fares are governed by a COVID code and can be changed at a cost of $25.

There is no denying that potential travellers are both wary and weary. They’ve had too many local holidays cancelled at the last minute and some have been forced to use all their annual leave when stood down.

“People are nervous but they’re planning,” Andy said. He predicts that holidaymakers will be heading to Bali and Fiji in early ’22 with the long-haul traveller not until ’23.

He said he’ll be returning to set up his office in the second half of ’22 and expects a boom in business “when people realise the value of [agents doing] all the admin of travel.” •

Caption: Local travel agent Andy Allen working from his home in Taylors Lakes.

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