Rockhampton travel agent Marissa Titmarsh.
Rockhampton travel agent Marissa Titmarsh.

CQ travel agent feels brunt of banned overseas travel

MARISSA Titmarsh's income is virtually "non-existent" as her business plummets in the midst of COVID-19.

Ms Titmarsh is a mobile independent travel agent, operating her business Marissa Titmarsh Travel, based in Rockhampton.

Her income operates on commission when holidays are booked, and given the worldwide restrictions amid COVID-19, there is no travel.

Since March she has been doing "clean up and damage control" for clients who have had to cancel holidays.

This has meant commission she earnt months ago has been reversed and she is now going into the negatives.

She said the hardest part was not knowing when it would end.

"It's gone on longer and longer and it's now wiped out the rest of the year," she said.

She is now spending hours going back and forth with suppliers getting refunds.

"A lot of the suppliers have come to the party with waivers, credits and cancellations," she said.

"It depends when suppliers put their cancellation processes in place, they don't say too much until it closer to the date.

"We are doing the best we can under the circumstances."

And as the death toll rises, more and more holidays are being cancelled.

"I have clients travelling later in the year, it's never ending," she said.

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Only just now she is getting refunds for people who were supposed to travel in April and May.

"Some suppliers are only offering credits as well, I've got clients who can spend $20,000 and they are only offering credits so to have that money sitting in someone else's account is frustrating," she said.

"The age of my clientele, they are seniors going on the trip of the lifetime, they don't know where they are going to be this time next year."

Ms Titmarsh did have one employee who ran admin and social media who she had to let go.

"She was really good at her job and we got along really well, it was really hard," he said.

"At the time we thought it would be a short-term thing."

For the time being, JobKeeper is keeping her business alive and running, she said.

"If I wasn't able to keep my business afloat I wouldn't be able to work as hard to gain refunds for my clients," she said.

Ms Titmarsh is worried about what she will do when JobKeeper does run out.

"I don't have the billion dollar back pocket to stay afloat," she said.

"With the JobKeeper it has been helpful, it's put a bit of a dint in the iceberg."

She is now facing the reality she may have to find another career.

"It's been a very big emotional rollercoaster, I didn't think anything like this would happen," she said.

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Ms Titmarsh doesn't deal with domestic travel as given some airlines have flights for less than $100, there is no market for her to make a profit.

"It's not really competitive or sustainable for me," she said.

"I deal with a lot of Europe, America and Canada and a lot of retiree couples."

She doesn't believe the travel industry will pick back up at full capacity until 2023. Even then, many people will be cautious.

"A lot of my clients aren't confident in travelling in 2021 or until there is a vaccine," she said.

"Even if international travel does open, there's the confidence of spending $20,000 to $30,000 on a trip, getting there and if things will be open.

"I don't think it will be back up and buzzing until 2023 or 2024, the longer it goes into this year."

Looking at the future realistically, Ms Titmarsh said her travel business might have to become more of a "side hustle".

It's a sad reality for her after working in the industry for 15 years.

"To try and find something else now is hard," she said.

"(Travel has been) half of my life now and for it to get taken from underneath you, it is a bit of a shock."

She has no idea what new career path she would like to go down.

Travel is still a strong passion of hers and she would like to stay related to the industry somehow.

"Something that might still allow me to travel to a degree, but it's really hard in a workplace at the moment," he said.

A petition has been lodged to get more support for the travel industry, sign here.


Mobile travel agent

Based in Rockhampton