With the impending end of JobKeeper on March 28, The Australian travel and tourism industry has again warned businesses are already planning or actioning mass redundancies across the sector due to the lack of certainty.
With thousands of inbound and outbound tourism jobs already lost and countless businesses severely affected by the collapse in international travel since the start of the pandemic, it should be no secret to anyone now that the sector continues to hurt significantly.
While the industry at large has been grateful for the financial support received to date thanks to JobKeeper, the reality is more help is needed to ensure the long-term viability of the sector once international borders reopen.
The pent up demand to travel again is there and confidence is building. The fact is that the travel industry WILL THRIVE again. And soon.
But not without the financial support ‘bridge’ to get us there.
And while some domestic tourism has helped to fill some of the gaps for local operators, it’s also not enough.
Australian Tourism Industry (ATIC) Executive Director Simon Westaway said to avoid further redundancies tourism enterprises need immediate answers on whether direct federal support will be available.
“Tourism businesses only require short-term assistance until the national vaccine rollout brings back confidence in domestic travel,” Mr Westaway said.
“The federal tourism package must include direct financial assistance to at-risk tourism businesses.”
Transport and Tourism Forum (TTF) chief executive Margy Osmond also repeated a call to the states and territories to keep their borders open so as not to stifle nascent interstate tourism.
Meanwhile, for the outbound sector, the ‘Save the travel industry’ challenge remains an even longer and perilous one if there is to be no further financial support when JobKeeper ends.
With no clarity or timeline around international borders reopening other than “at the end of this year” travel agents have been left still sifting through thousands of unresolved travel credits and refunds for no monetary gain.
“Where do we stand?” Asks travel agent Linda Travlin from TravLin Travel in Victoria.
“Offer us the courtesy and basic decency in letting us know where we stand,” Says Ms Travlin. “Especially after all the sacrifices our industry has made in good faith, for the good of the nation and as Australians looking after Australians.”
Treasurer Josh Frydenberg is visiting north Queensland today to get a first-hand account from business operators about the state of the sector.
Shadow treasurer Jim Chalmers said Mr Frydenberg needed to act now.
“Josh Frydenberg is cutting JobKeeper for thousands of workers and small businesses in Cairns and far north Queensland which are still struggling, and now he’s come here empty-handed when the region is crying out for help,” Mr Chalmers said.
“Almost every corner of Australia from Inner Melbourne to Broome and from South Australia to North Queensland is still reeling from the pain of this sharp and sustained visitor drop off,” Ms Osmond said.
Meanwhile, Mr Westaway says he’s becoming tired of hearing the same rhetoric and no action.
“The tourism industry is not looking for more grant programs or pork-barrelling in a few regions.” He said.
“Direct financial assistance should go to all tourism businesses at risk including sole traders and small family businesses as well as major airlines.” Mr Westaway continued.
However, some of Australia’s tourism sector is confident there will be ongoing federal government assistance beyond the end of the JobKeeper this month.
The Tourism & Transport Forum says it is in talks on a “soon-to-be-finalised targeted assistance package to support these sectors beyond JobKeeper”.
Ms Osmond pointed to briefings in recent weeks with Mr Frydenberg and Minister for Trade, Tourism and Investment Dan Tehan.
“We are confident that our concerns and potential support options are being closely considered at this critical juncture,” Ms Osmond said.
Ms Osmonds comments will no doubt be echoed by travel industry bodies AFTA (The Australian Federation of Travel Agents), and CATO (Council of Australian Tour Operators) as well as numerous travel companies, individuals and groups all over Australia who have all lobbied tirelessly for months to state their case and ‘Save the travel industry.’
Speaking at the Destination Australia 2021 conference last week in Sydney, Minister for Trade, Tourism and Investment Dan Tehan said: “JobKeeper has assisted in helping the sector throughout the last 12 months and I’ve got that message loud and clear from you, but JobKeeper will end at the end of March.”
“So at the moment, we’re looking at what measures we can put in place, and what type of measures we can put in place to help them support you.” Mr Tehan said.
The sectors have argued for JobKeeper to be extended for the travel, tourism and aviation markets but the government insists it must end this month.
The burning question now is when will a decision finally be announced?
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