Kyabram Free Press

Fortune favours the brave

- By Rohan Aldous

Debi Kitt isn’t quite in the same predicamen­t that ended legendary Scottish rebel William Wallace’s life, but she is almost ready to share his famous last word (in the movie, anyway) with the Kyabram community – FREEDOM.

Without going into too much detail, many of our readers will be aware of Mel Gibson’s depiction of Wallace in Braveheart and the final scenes of the Oscar-winning film.

Debi, who operates Kyabram’s Boomerang Travel, has Wallace’s Scottish blood in her ancestry and in the next few months is planning to offer the same freedoms to her clientele.

For the travel industry the COVID-19 pandemic has been nothing short of disastrous, and it has forced many agents to think outside the box. That’s a place Debi Kitt is quite comfortabl­e.

When it became clear that most of her time as a travel agent would be spent chasing up credits and recouping funds for her clients, with no signs of any new business on the horizon, she stepped up to the plate and expanded.

Good business, according to the experts, is investing when times are bad and saving when times are good. It’s an order of activity that has paid dividends for the now dual components of Debi’s Allan St business.

An archway leading through to the neighbouri­ng shop, also operated by the energetic travel agent, reveals the second arm of her business – Healthy Tummies Pantry.

“Being a coeliac I was aware of a void in the market, for the entire region actually,” she said.

“I opened Healthy Tummies on August 26 last year and it’s been great.

“We draw people to the shop from throughout the area, and beyond. It has really helped to keep the travel side of the business going.”

When the border between Melbourne and regional Victoria closed, Debi’s identifica­tion of a business opportunit­y in the coeliac industry yielded a strong return.

“It took me 24 hours after that to decide to open the business,” she said.

“I’ve certainly learned lots about the industry in the last 12 months.”

Debi has been in the travel industry for 20 years, having earned her diploma before moving to the country to work with disability group Worktraine­rs.

As you may have guessed, she is not one to sit on her hands and left her options open by working in the Kalgoorlie mines, having earlier earned an accounting qualificat­ion.

She eventually found herself working at a Shepparton travel agency, the subject she had initially studied, for two years before eventually obtaining her licence in the field.

“I was originally from Dandenong, but spent time on the family beef farm at Katandra before eventually travelling for work. I was in security at the mines and saved my money for a planned trip to Uganda,” she said.

“The country became a war zone back then (1981) and that trip never happened. I was

“We recently had a cruise line company cancel a world cruise, which was due to depart in late 2022. That probably signals we are a way off.” – Debi Kitt

planning to travel there to see the gorillas.

“It took me 21 years to get to Africa after that.”

This year marked the 20th anniversar­y of Boomerang Travel, Debi having negotiated the Bali Bombings, 9-11, Thailand Tsunami, SARS and now COVID.

“I’m still here,” she said.

And, as you might guess, she is well travelled. “I generally do one internatio­nal and one domestic trip, maybe an educationa­l trip mixed in with that, on an annual basis,” she said.

Debi had some sage advice for people planning internatio­nal travel, even those looking to go interstate.

“Look to next year, even the middle of the year, to plan your trip,” she said.

“I really love our clients, but I don’t think – mentally – I could handle booking and re-booking again.”

She said a significan­t reduction in airport staff had the potential to see future hiccups with bookings for clients.

“We are being very careful about re-booking our clients’ trips,” she said.

Debi explained that one of her office’s filing cabinets was almost completely dedicated to folders containing trips that had been delayed or cancelled as a result of COVID.

“Some people have had four or five cracks at getting away on their holiday,” she said.

“The people I really feel for are those older customers that planned their holiday years in advance and have now aged another two, maybe three years, and still haven’t been able to go.

“There will be people that, due to getting older, may not be able to enjoy that holiday of a lifetime they have booked.”

She said confusion had been a part of the travel business, but things were now starting to become a little clearer.

“I am expecting a rush of inquiries,” she said. “A lot of people are using credits from internatio­nal bookings to pay for an Australian holiday.

“There have been a lot more credits than refunds, but people have been very understand­ing.

“We’ve had lots of wins on behalf of clients. “There are hundreds of people who have had to change their dates and the amount of money that represents is large.”

Many of the Kyabram business’s clients have chosen to wait until 2023 to book their holiday, and with the introducti­on of the new worldwide Qr-coded vaccinatio­n passport there was a trickle of business now coming through the door.

A wry smile came to Debi’s face when I asked about the potential of cruising — immediate flashbacks to the Ruby Princess debacle in Sydney coming to mind.

“Cruises and coach tours represent a large part of our business. They are very popular,” she said.

“Europe is already cruising again, but there is an indication that Australian cruises are not close to re-commencing.

“We recently had a cruise line company cancel a world cruise, which was due to depart in late 2022. That probably signals we are a way off.”

As for the top destinatio­ns for Kyabram people in the past two decades, Europe topped the list, but not far behind were the “easy to get to” Asian locations.

The most difficult location to get to was Ukraine, the amount of rules for entering the country making it a challenge for travellers.

In the meantime Debi’s advice was to see Australia and give the world a little time to “settle down” before heading overseas.

 ?? ?? Around the world . . . in 20 years: its 20th anniversar­y.
Debi Kitt’s Boomerang Travel business is this year celebratin­g
Around the world . . . in 20 years: its 20th anniversar­y. Debi Kitt’s Boomerang Travel business is this year celebratin­g
 ?? ??

Newspapers in English

Newspapers from Australia