Like many operators within the journey business, the coronavirus pandemic has wreaked havoc on Caffery’s small, however beforehand worthwhile, enterprise in Melbourne’s leafy Malvern East.
Whereas Caffery has seen her share of disruptions to the journey sector throughout her 38-year profession – terrorism assaults, tsunamis, earthquakes and financial downturns – nothing compares to coronavirus.
“In a single day, by means of no fault of my very own, my enterprise is value nothing,” she says.
Whereas Caffery and two of her staff at Journey Sense every obtain a fortnightly JobKeeper cost of $1000 from the federal authorities, her share has been totally consumed by enterprise prices and buyer refunds.
She now not has a shopfront, bidding farewell to it final yr as a way to lower prices.
Employees now earn a living from home, however there are nonetheless insurance coverage, administration prices, licensing charges, IT charges and accounting payments.
Caffery says she hasn’t taken residence a wage in additional than a yr. She additionally misplaced cash on one other enterprise enterprise – a salt remedy franchise – which was compelled into liquidation final yr on the peak of the pandemic. “I’m successfully unemployed,” she says.
On the finish of March, the JobKeeper payments maintaining her 13-year-old journey company afloat are set to come back to an finish. She’ll need to let go of her workers, a tragic, however unavoidable final result after a horror 12 months.
“It breaks my coronary heart,” she says, her voice wavering.
“I’m a accountable enterprise proprietor and these workers have been very hardworking, loyal and helped me construct my enterprise to what it’s in the present day.
“They’re like household.”
She’s utilized for work in workplace administration, catering and at accommodations, however hasn’t heard again from anybody but. She is aware of competitors is fierce and suspects her age could be working in opposition to her.
“There’s in all probability 100 different individuals who have utilized for these positions,” she says.
She’s involved the federal authorities’s JobMaker scheme – which supplies hiring credit of as much as $200 per week to companies that make use of employees beneath the age 35 – may make it more durable to search out work.
It’s a coverage that’s being carefully monitored by Nationwide Seniors Australia, which says the federal government should guarantee it doesn’t drawback one group whereas making an attempt to assist one other.
Ian Henschke, the organisation’s chief advocate, says even earlier than the pandemic older Australians had been nervous about dropping their job and being shut out of the workforce.
“The failure to curb age discrimination, coupled with the rise to the pension age, and now excessive unemployment because of the pandemic makes the state of affairs worse,” he says.
However there are some optimistic indicators, with the latest Bureau of Statistics figures displaying the proportion of older staff within the workforce had virtually returned to pre-pandemic ranges. In December, 5.four per cent of 55-to 64-year-olds had been unemployed, down from 5.eight per cent in July.
In addition to the JobKeeper funds, Caffery has acquired $38,000 in state authorities grants for small companies. Whereas she’s “extremely grateful” for the help, she was embarrassed to ask for assist.
“I’m horrified to need to lean on the federal government,” she says.
“I’m a really impartial individual, and have supported myself, labored laborious, paid my taxes all my life.”
As an alternative of serving to clients plan their dream holidays, Caffery now spends most of her time cancelling holidays and arranging refunds from airways, tour operators and lodging suppliers.
Earlier than the pandemic, Caffery’s enterprise used to have an annual turnover of $three million, however the ongoing border closures has lowered this to virtually nothing. Whereas she had some success promoting home journey experiences earlier than Christmas, a spate of border closures introduced that enterprise to an abrupt halt.
“With a lot uncertainty, shoppers are hesitant to ebook something in any respect and also you don’t blame them,” she says.
“It’s laborious to really feel optimistic when it’s all simply cancelling and refunding.”
There’s a bungalow behind Caffery’s Glen Iris residence that’s crammed with desks, couches, submitting cupboards and brochure stands from her former shopfront. She needs to promote the furnishings, however one thing is holding her again. “It’s been an actual grief course of,” she says.
Whereas it’s unlikely Caffery will reopen a shopfront, she is set to maintain her enterprise working, even when she’s the one worker.
She says her “extremely loyal and supportive” shoppers have about $100,000 in journey credit that might be used for long-awaited holidays as soon as borders reopen and a COVID-19 vaccine is accessible.
“I need to be there to take care of them,” she says.
“Australians like to journey and must journey. Within the post-COVID world we’ll want journey brokers greater than ever. We have to preserve the journey business alive. I’ve simply started working out the best way to survive in between.”
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Senior Reporter at The Age
Clay Lucas is a senior reporter for The Age. Clay has labored at The Age since 2005, masking city affairs, transport, state politics, native authorities and office relations for The Age and Sunday Age.