Federal Senate committee appeals for more action to support accom industry

Tourism Accommodation Australia (TAA) CEO Michael Johnson and TAA Chairman Martin Ferguson appeared before the Federal Senate committee on Covid 19, representing the Tourism and Accom industry.

Due to the dire state of the industry because of COVID and with no end in sight to travel restrictions, they demanded more clarity from the Government on strategic plans and guidelines so that businesses can decide now if they have an appetite to carry on for the long haul.

First, Michael gave the committee a quick overview of what the pandemic has done to the accommodation sector over the last six months and where we stand today.

He stated: “The initial shutdown of inbound markets and borders followed by the implementation of federal restrictions have left our tourism, in particular the accommodation sector, decimated.

There were small green shoots of hope in the regions during the recent school holidays, but with the Victorian second wave these green shoots dried up very quickly.

“We now find the majority of hotels in CBDs right around the country operating 50 – 60 percent down on same time last year with Sydney and Melbourne hardest hit with room revenues down in excess of 75 percent.

“The federal government’s support, in particular job keeper has been our saving grace. It has effectively been able to keep our businesses afloat and our staff engaged while revenues have disappeared.”

He thanked the government for the decision to extend job keeper and for listening to concerns raised about eligibility.

But… He went on: “With state border closures extended… no sign of international borders re-opening… and even our New Zealand bubble no longer an option… our industry will need ongoing support if we are to survive.

“2020 is a write off and the first half of 2021 not looking much brighter. In fact, forecasters say it will take up to 4 years before our industry returns to anything like pre-Covid 19 occupancies and profitability.

A vaccine could certainly see these forecasts lesson and we are forever hopeful of its development and distribution. But without a vaccine the industry needs help.

“We need federal and state governments to be more in sync when it comes to border closures and openings… the industry needs to promote itself domestically and to the world and we cannot do that until the uncertainty ends.  

“We also need to understand whether we have the appetite or capabilities to operate in a COVID-19 world.

“Are we as a country looking for eradication or suppression and if it is suppression then we need to have strategic plans and set guidelines across states to allow businesses to operate.

“There is a need to implement more strategy on stimulating revenue for the industry.”

TAA in conjunction with AHA have submitted a proposal to government for the exemption of FBT for 3 years for SMEs – this would stimulate both accommodation and food and beverage sales across the industry.

He explained: “We are also working closely with Australian Chamber of Commerce and Industry and in particular with Martin representing us on the Tourism Restart Taskforce which has been reporting directly into the NCCC – now the NCC.

This taskforce continues to present principles and recommendations to government on the key issues our industry is facing.

“We would like to publicly thank the Morrison government for their support to date and look forward to that support continuing as we work towards this long road to recovery.”

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