What are we allowed to do, not allowed to do and where are we allowed to go?
A helping hand for travellers
This article appeared in The Australian Jewish News, February 5, 2021
With state borders opening and closing like boom gates at a level crossing, and international travel still restricted, a Melbourne travel agency with a sizeable Jewish clientele is mapping out its strategy for the return of more normal times.
Mark Chaskiel, CEO, director of corporate sales and a part-owner of Caulfield North travel group FBI Travel, said the company is ready for when restrictions ease. The well known Kooyong Road building housing FBI Travel was recently sold to the Spiritgrow Josef Kryss Centre, which will develop it into a large new facility with ample indoor and outdoor activity spaces.
However, Chaskiel emphasised the sale “had no bearing on FBI Travel as FBI did not own the building. It’s actually given us the opportunity to make the necessary adjustments to fulfil our future office requirements.”
Earlier, the company underwent some corporate changes. For most of the past 25 years, Chaskiel and business partner Willie Best owned the business, but over the past few years, businessman Danny Englman increased his stake, with Chaskiel and Englman completing their purchase of FBI last year.
By then, Australia was firmly under coronavirus restrictions. For Chaskiel, March 20 last year stands out as the day Prime Minister Scott Morrison “made his shock announcement that for the first time in history, Australia would shut its borders to the outside world”.The news “sparked the largest repatriation of Australians in the history of this country, all scrambling to get home while they still could”.
“The FBI Travel team were quickly on the frontline of this mammoth effort,” said Chaskiel. Then came months of obtaining refunds from global suppliers, assisting stranded travellers – many in the Jewish community – to return home, and aiding emergency travellers involved in compassionate visits, caregiving, custody issues, or delivering essential medical supplies.
Israel’s recent border closures have impacted on Israel visiting programs, according to a Zionist Federation of Australia spokesperson, but hopes are high that Jewish youth movements will again be visiting Israel as its vaccination program takes effect.
With FBI Travel strongly associated with organised Israel travel in Melbourne’s Jewish community, the group’s business, includes most gap-year and short-stay programs, noted Chaskiel, adding “Many schools also use FBI. We’ve been at the forefront of moving literally hundreds of travellers to and from Israel every year.”
“If there is one lesson, we have learned this year it is, that the ability to travel is such a privilege and something we should never ever again take for granted,” he reflected.