Agents cry foul on bookings

Jackson Lavell-LeeBusselton Dunsborough Times
Helloworld directors Jana Gee and Anita Ness with Vasse MLA Libby Mettam
Camera IconHelloworld directors Jana Gee and Anita Ness with Vasse MLA Libby Mettam Credit: Jackson Lavell-Lee

Travel agents in the Capes area say they have been ignored by the State Government, which has endorsed online booking company Wotif for its Wander out Yonder tourism campaign.

The online provider, owned by American company Expedia, excludes travel agents from logging in to help clients with travel plans and earning a commission.

Travel agents around the region have reported at least a 95 per cent reduction in business during the COVID-19 pandemic. Naturaliste Travel director Paul Maclean said several local agents had contacted Tourism Minister Paul Papalia but a letter he had received from the Minister gave no indication the travel industry would be supported by the Government.

“They keep pointing at the Federal Government, but I think the State need to take responsibility for the effects of the hard border,” he said. “They have done nothing for our industry to help us get though COVID-19 — not a cent.”

WA Premier Mark McGowan said the booking component of the scheme used the program because 99 per cent of West Australians would go online to find the best deals.

“The booking component of the program uses Expedia Group because, as I am advised, no Western Australian company does that,” he said.

“Obviously, we had to find one from elsewhere to do the online booking component.

“But if people wish to book a holiday at a hotel using a travel agent, of course they can do so.”

However, Mr Maclean said: “If the Government did the right thing travel agents would have had access to whatever deals they are doing on Expedia.”

“They have said previously to book direct but now they are supporting Wotif during this campaign, which is a total backflip.”

Vasse MLA Libby Mettam, pictured, said the government was letting down an industry experiencing extreme hardship.

“Promoting an international booking platform rather than encouraging West Australians to utilise our local travel agents is an insult to businesses who are struggling to keep their doors open,” she said.

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