Richard Johnston and Norm Black have turned their Byron Bay travel business Tripadeal into a $100million global company. It’s currently facing a crisis as travellers are stranded overseas amid the coronavirus pandemic. Picture: NIGEL HALLETT
Richard Johnston and Norm Black have turned their Byron Bay travel business Tripadeal into a $100million global company. It’s currently facing a crisis as travellers are stranded overseas amid the coronavirus pandemic. Picture: NIGEL HALLETT

Byron company’s ‘race against time’ to get clients home

THEY marked their biggest month yet in January.

But current sales for Byron-based travel company TripADeal have "dropped off a cliff", according to co-founder Norm Black.

His company's biggest concern, though, is getting their 547 travellers currently overseas back home safely amid the coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic.

Mr Black has welcomed Prime Minister Scott Morrison's announcement this morning banning Australians from non-essential to any foreign country.

"We've wanted those borders closed, we've wanted a "do-not-travel" for weeks," Mr Black said.

As TripADeal offers long trips, including a 42-day "round the world" adventure, he said many of their clients were caught out but had embarked long before the COVID-19 outbreak.

"We've been working through our sheer volume of what people we have around the world," he said.

"We've got people right now in the Moroccan desert who had no chance of getting out to the airport before it was locked down.

"We're racing people out of Cairo right now; we're racing people out of India."

He said a plane in Delhi bound for Australia was meanwhile unloaded before leaving the tarmac.

"We've had a team just working non-stop to logistically find ways to get people out of countries.

"From last Thursday it unfolded so fast it has literally been a race against time."

Mr Black said the situation was hurting his business, but most people were rescheduling trips for down the track.

Some are moving them to six months from now, while others have pushed their travels into 2021.

He's been warning some other local businesses outside of the tourism sector that they'll be hard hit as well.

He fears they may not be prepared for the economic impact that will come.

"You'll see the whole world's fleet of airlines suddenly grind to a halt, probably, over the next two or three days," he said.

"Our lives are going to take a serious disruption.

"There's going to be a lot of people lose their jobs.

"That won't be limited to travel and tourism, that'll be across everything."

For his business that focuses on the good times, a crisis like this isn't ideal.

But Mr Black said they were focusing on one key thing.

"We just need to now get these people home, that's our priority," he said.

With sporting events, including with junior clubs, cancelled along with a whole host of events, and tensions growing as isolation becomes a reality for many, Mr Black said it was also vital for the community to remain connected.

"Together, we're stronger," he said.


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