News In BriefTourism

Nearly $100m support package for Australia’s zoos

This week the federal Government unveiled a $94.6 million support package for Australia’s zoos and aquariums, it is a much-needed lifeline to help them get through the COVID-19 crisis and to ensure the welfare of the animals.

The measures have been praised by The Australian Tourism Council (ATIC) as another positive investment towards the recovery of our tourism and visitor economy.

This help will assist exhibiting zoos and aquariums with fixed operational costs associated with caring for their animals, and hopefully ensure Australian zoos and aquariums can remain viable and ready to welcome visitors when restrictions are eased.

AccomNews reached out to Australia Zoo for their response to the news but they said “we would prefer not to comment”.

ATIC Executive Director Simon Westaway said one of our tourism industry’s consistent drivers, be it to locals, interstate visitors and international travellers, is our unique and compelling nature-based offering, which brings Australia out from the pack.

“Zoos and Aquariums across our country are destinations in their own right! The Western Plains Zoo in Dubbo is not just a crucial visitor magnet and economic driver for central NSW, but also delivers a safe and compelling Australian nature-based offering that is a standout globally,” Mr Westaway said.

“The same can be said for dozens of other zoological and marine life offerings that stretch right across all States and Territories. Monarto Safari Park in South Australia is but a further example which has received government infrastructure support due to its importance to South Australia’s own visitor economy.

“ATIC welcomes the Federal Government’s recognition that for regional tourism in particular to again generate green shoots, let alone move down a pathway of both sustainable and greater growth over time, that our zoos and aquariums need to continue to exist to play an important role in future visitor attraction.”

Federal Tourism Minister Simon Birmingham said the initiative would provide vital assistance for Australia’s exhibiting zoos and aquariums who have been hit hard by the COVID-19 pandemic.

“This will be a lifeline for these popular tourism attractions across Australia who have had many of their revenue streams dry up during this crisis,” Minister Birmingham said.

“We know our world-class zoos and aquariums are major tourism drawcards for many of our major cities and regional centres across Australia, with over 20 million visitors walking through the gates each year.

“We also shouldn’t underestimate the huge positive flow-on effects our zoos and aquariums provide to our economy. They bring thousands of visitors into communities who then spend millions of dollars visiting other attractions, sleeping in our hotels and dining in our restaurants.”

Eligible exhibiting zoos and aquariums will have access to a grant that contributes towards up to six months of its animal welfare operating costs. This includes animal feed, enclosure, health and other specialised care expenses, and utilities directly related to the housing and caring for animals.

In addition to this support to help with operational costs, zoos and aquariums who meet the criteria will be able to apply for the JobKeeper program to assist with staffing costs.

Austrade will work with the Zoo and Aquarium Association to identify eligible members, as well as state and territory tourism organisations to identify non-members which may be eligible for financial assistance.

COVID-19 Relief and Recovery Fund Fact Sheet

Funding will assist these businesses with the fixed operational costs associated with caring for animals, and will help exhibiting zoos and aquariums to remain viable and ready to welcome tourists when restrictions are eased.

Eligible exhibiting zoos and aquariums will have access to a grant that contributes towards up to six months of its animal welfare operating costs. This includes animal feed, veterinarian and other specialised care expenses, and utilities directly related to housing and caring for animals.

The grant will not cover staffing costs as the Australian Government’s JobKeeper program already provides support in this area. Capital expenditure or administration costs associated with the general operation of the business are also excluded.

As state and territory governments have primary carriage of animal welfare issues, this program only focuses on exhibiting zoos and aquariums and does not provide assistance to animal refuges and rescue organisations. Nor does it cover nature-based and on-farm experiences, farms, fisheries, reserves and marine-based experiences.

Timing and Administration

An initial payment will be made within 10 days of eligible applicants executing a funding agreement. The balance will be paid from 1 July 2020 when the expenses of eligible applicants who can show an ongoing decline in revenue of at least 30 per cent have been established.

This assistance is part of the Australian Government’s $1 billion Relief and Recovery Fund which is providing assistance to sectors, regions and communities disproportionately affected by the economic impacts of COVID-19.

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