‘No new money’: Agent’s plea for locals to support locals
No matter how many years she's been in business and different industries she's worked in, nothing could prepare Cathy Hewett for COVID-19.
The global health pandemic wiped off 97 per cent of the travel agents's revenue. Literally overnight.
"In my 30-odd years working, this is the worst we've ever experienced," she said.
Mrs Hewett, 51, an accountant by trade, has been in the travel industry for six years.
She owns Coolum Cruise & Travel and Tewantin Travel.
When COVID-19 hit earlier this year, she and her team suddenly had to deal with clients being stuck overseas, stacks of cancellations and refunds; and working from home.
"We never stopped working," she said.
Mrs Hewett employed six staff across the two businesses before the pandemic broke out.
Today, there are only three - all of whom are working reduced hours.
And while domestic travel bookings, rental wavers and JobKeeper payments have given the mother-of-four some financial relief, she said the businesses were no longer making "new money".
"I don't know how much longer a lot of agencies will be able to survive without putting their own money in, which takes years to recoup," she said.
"But we do love this job. We do love sending people on their dream holidays.
"We're not in it for the money. We're in it for the lifestyle."
Mrs Hewett said borders opening to countries, such as Japan and New Zealand, would help.
But she said what she needed more than anything else from governments was "just cash".
"We had grants which are greatly appreciated but if our landlord decided they have to start charging rent again, it's going to be very hard," she said.
And something else would help too - it's locals, helping locals.
"Come and look at your local travel agents; support a local business and help get this country rolling again," Mrs Hewett said.
Despite the challenges she's faced in the past six months, Mrs Hewett, who just welcomed her first grandchild, remained positive.
"It's just what's happening to the world and it can't be forever," she said.