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Facing ongoing international borders closures tourism industry calls for continued Federal Government support

Facing ongoing international borders closures tourism industry calls for continued Federal Government support
January 19, 2021

With Australia’s external borders having been closed to international visitors for almost a year, tourism industry leaders are calling for the Federal Government to extend JobKeeper payments to businesses and workers beyond March.

With both Federal Department of Health Secretary, Professor Brendan Murphy and Australia's Chief Medical Officer Professor, Paul Kelly having this week suggested that international borders are likely to be closed for much of the year, with even those from well-vaccinated countries unlikely to be granted quarantine-free entry, representatives from across tourism are fearing for the industries future.

Tourism and Transport Forum (TTF) Chief Executive, Margy Osmond today advised that while international borders remain closed there is "no hope of recovery”, noting “there is no way that domestic tourism can fill the gap that will be left by inbound international.

"Essentially your average Chinese visitor to Australia probably spends $8,500 while they're here. Your average Aussie who heads off for a holiday is probably spending about $1,500.”

While Australians have been encouraged to holiday at home, Osmond called for a uniform system of state border restrictions, arguing tourism operators had lost billions of dollars over the Christmas period following Sydney's Northern Beaches outbreak.

Osmond also urged the Federal Government to provide more "pay cheque" support when the JobKeeper wage subsidy ends in March.

She commented “(the Federal) Government is going to have to think very seriously how it supports this industry for the next couple of years, not just the next couple of months, if it wants to have a tourism industry when we actually reopen our international borders.”

Australian Federation of Travel Agents (AFTA) Chief Executive, Darren Rudd, told Guardian Australia he had spoken with the Federal Tourism Minister, Dan Tehan, on Monday, and that he supported the idea of further help for the industry.

However, Rudd believed there were some cabinet ministers who still needed to be convinced the sector deserved extra support above other industries.

While Australian Prime Minister, Scott Morrison did not rule out further support for the tourism sector today, Federal Treasurer Josh Frydenberg yesterday rejected calls to again extend JobKeeper, arguing it was always designed to be temporary.

Highlighting millions of dollars in specific support measures for the industry, including a regional tourism fund and cash payments for travel agents, Treasurer Frydenberg advised “(there is an) $100 million plus program for travel agents, who have been hit hard, and the tourism sector more generally, as well as increased support for the aviation sector.”

Rudd said that 40,000 AFTA members had contacted their local MPs asking for extended support, stating “it is needed, but it will be under another name because the government has given its word it will end JobKeeper.”

Rudd said the industry, worth $46 billion a year before the Coronavirus pandemic, was already reeling from a “mass exodus of skills and knowledge” since the initial border closure in March last year.

He added “people are making this move out of necessity. They’ve loved their job, but more will have to go unless there is an extension of support.”

He also said with fewer employees, the sector would not be well placed to maximise the potential benefit tourism can bring to the economy when international travel fully resumes.

Images: The staff team at Gumbuya World (top) and TTF Chief Executive, Margy Osmond (below).

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