Johanna Maguire, Director of Helloworld Travel Emerald.
Johanna Maguire, Director of Helloworld Travel Emerald.

Emerald business facing ‘brutal’ reality of the pandemic

WHILE restrictions are slowly easing and most businesses are getting back to some form of normalcy, there is one industry that is facing a “brutal” reality of the coronavirus pandemic.

For 43 years, the Maguire family have been assisting Central Highlanders with all their travel needs.

Directors of Helloworld Travel Emerald, Jo and Peter Maguire, were passionate about helping locals organise their international and domestic trips, as well as train tickets to Rockhampton and bus tickets to Longreach.

But as with many businesses, everything changed in March this year.

“We weren’t doing bookings we were just doing cancellations,” Mrs Maguire said.

“The first couple of months were the toughest, because we didn’t know at that time how long it was going to be.”

Johanna Maguire, Director of Helloworld Travel Emerald.
Johanna Maguire, Director of Helloworld Travel Emerald.

Since March they have had to refund all future travel, and rely on government subsidies to make it through each week.

“Everyone who bought something from us in the previous eight to 10 months for future travel, we’ve had to refund all of that and we’ve got nothing to sell going forward,” she said.

“If Woolies don’t have product to sell, they haven’t got a business and that’s where we’re at, we’ve got nothing to sell,” Mr Maguire added.

The family owned business remained open everyday since March, determined to be there for their clients and community, regardless of the situation.

“We didn’t shut down at all. Walking away was not an option for me, I just couldn’t do it,” Mrs Maguire said.

“What would’ve happened to our hundreds of clients if we just walked away? It was brutal.”

Prior to the pandemic, Emerald’s Helloworld Travel spent hundreds of thousands to make the move from Borilla St to a new, modern office on Egerton St, only to find themselves in an unforeseeable financial situation.

“How long do you hang on? International is the biggest part of the business, domestics good but people do it themselves online, but for us, international is the big one,” Mr Maguire said.

“So how long can we last? It’s fine getting the states to open their borders, but when will they allow cruises or when can people go overseas?”

Although they, with many others, were still in the midst of the unknown, they were thankful for the community support to help them stay afloat.

Queensland travel has increased with many locals opting to travel out west.

Qantas Founders Museum. Photo: Queensland Tourism and Events
Qantas Founders Museum. Photo: Queensland Tourism and Events

“People are coming in for domestic, the islands, and going out west – everyone wants to go out to Longreach and have a look at the hall of fame and the Qantas museum. Its been really good,” Mrs Maguire said.

“I’ve had a lot of people asking to book accommodation domestically. They’re not game to do it themselves because they’ve lost too much money with cancellations and they didn’t know what to do.

“That’s what were here for, they’ve got that person who will know what to do and will fight for them.”

With Jobkeeper subsidies finishing in March, the couple hoped restrictions would ease around cruising to boost business, although in the mean time, it’s a “wait and see game”.

“Cruising is the big thing we had this year, we booked a hell of a lot of cruises,” Mrs Maguire said.

“Australians love cruising. Well, they did. So hopefully we can get cruising back again, even domestic ones, from Brisbane to Airlie Beach. They’re great.”

More stories:

– Industry losing $10 billion a month

– $10b body blow: Why travel industry needs your help

– Builders, cafes among 65 Qld company collapses

Mr and Mrs Maguire urged locals to book any travel needs – train, bus and plane tickets – through the business and to help support other local businesses.

“All local businesses are the same, you have to just support local businesses as much as you can, or they wont be here and there won’t be jobs for young people and people won’t come back,” she said.

“Use us for your bookings, whether it’s a plane ticket to Brisbane or a train ticket to Rocky.

“If you don’t use us and give us some income then we just won’t be able to be here and you will be on your own.

“Use your local businesses, support them and then they can support other locals and inject funds back into the community.”


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