Hard border may not eliminate virus but will eliminate Queensland jobs, says sector

Queensland’s premier confirmed borders will remain closed until there are no cases of community transmission in New South Wales and Victoria, and it may be Christmas before they open. The closures, although necessary for health are a continuing blow to Queensland’s faltering Accom industry and are sure to cause further job losses.

Talking about the border closure earlier this month Tourism Accommodation Australia CEO Michael Johnson said while health obviously had to come first, the closure was another blow to the struggling hospitality and accommodation sector in both states, especially in the regions.

“Health is obviously paramount and the industry has always put the health of staff and customers first ever since COVID-19 hit our shores – we continue to do so,” Mr Johnson said.

“This is another blow to an accommodation sector which was already on its knees – especially for hotels in regional areas of NSW and Victoria which had just started to see some holiday makers and business travellers’ return.”

Accommodation Association CEO Dean Long said of the closures: “The Accommodation Sector agrees that health considerations must be at the forefront of decision making however this decision comes with absolutely no warning and will now mean an acceleration of job losses in Queensland’s tourism sector.”

“The closing of Queensland’s border to the whole of New South Wales and the Australian Capital Territory when there have been just 21 cases in total over the past month, less than 1 case a day, is extremely disappointing.”

“It is absolutely critical that we get the balance right between protecting lives and protecting jobs. The flow-on ramifications of slamming shut borders are huge. This decision not only costs Queensland lost revenue from tourism but the reverse applies back into New South Wales and the Australian Capital Territory. This is a decision which has very real, very damaging consequences for hotels, motels and serviced apartment providers, for all those tourism and tourism-related businesses and communities and for the economies of those impacted states and territories. The Queensland Premier’s decisions impact more than just Queensland and we need a more collaborative and constructive approach.”

“The Queensland Government and Chief Medical Officer must release the details of the rationale they are basing their decisions on in expanding hot spots so that businesses can understand and prepare. Decisions such as the one taken today destroy the confidence of businesses and tourism reliant communities.”

Trevor Rawnsley, Australian Resident Managers Association (ARAMA) CEO told us he couldn’t agree more with AA & Dean Long.

He said: “We wholeheartedly support his comments and we concur. The Queensland Government is hellbent on eliminating the virus and in attempting to eliminate the virus they’re eliminating jobs. We are totally opposed to any hard border closure between NSW and QLD. We understand the concern all Australians have about what is happening in Vic at the moment and our heart goes out to businesspeople and the general community in Vic. The hard border closure between NSW and QLD is the most damaging thing that they (govt) can do to negatively impact the tourism industry and business in general.”

ARAMA wants open but shored up borders. Trevor, talking about recent cases of people dodging QLD border controls said: “Instead of putting people who fraudulently make statements on their border pass in a 5-star hotel, quarantine them in prison in the remand cell until their day in court to send a clear and strong message to other Australians who are travelling across the border that there are consequences for their actions.

“The entire population of QLD should not be punished for the poor choices of a few people.”

Trevor explained that Queenslanders lives were being put at risk by the Government trying to eliminate the virus.

He said: “What I mean by the lives of Queenslanders being put at risk is that many of our ARAMA members are in severe mental stress from the prospect of not being able to trade and conduct their business due to the border closure. I have never seen anything like it.

“As a result of border closures, ARAMA is now offering free counselling to members via a network of professional counsellors – This program is called A-MAP the ARAMA Member Assistance Program I meet with ARAMA members regularly and talk to them on the phone every day  and an increasing number of them are  stressed. Even members  who are involved in residential tenancies and not just tourism,  are mentally on edge because their Accom business is becoming negatively impacted because people just don’t have jobs and the longer this goes on the harder it will be to pay the rent..”

In a message to the Government Trevor said: “Give the people of Queensland some hope by opening borders and let us get on and generate income from our efforts so we don’t have to  rely on Government handouts! At the end of the day we’re talking about Queensland families at the brink of a mental depression as well as an economic depression because they’re not able to do what they know and are trained to do and want to do.”

Queensland operator Eric Van Meurs from Atlantis Marcoola Sunny Coast told us: “Tens of thousands of dollars’ worth of bookings disappeared within 3-4 days of the border closure announcement – that all related to bookings that came from NSW & VIC.

“The Victorians and people from New Zealand who usually come for long stays to escape the cold, are obviously unable to come and so the nature of the bookings we have has changed but fortunately for us at this stage we’re quite pleased that we’ve been able to fill a lot of it with shorter term stays.”

Viscount on the Beach, Surfers manager, Amber Woodroff said: “Border closure has absolutely affected business. Since mid-March we have been empty and are now getting cancellations for Sept and Oct holidays.”

Amber admitted sadness because she has also been taking phone calls from regular guests who stay every year and they’re upset because they can’t travel: “People need holidays now more than ever now for their mental health!”

On Monday Queensland Premier Annastacia Palaszczuk told channel 7 news that the health of Queenslanders must come first as the southern states grapple with new coronavirus cases. “I think we’re going to continue to see restrictions in Victoria up until Christmas time. That’s very unfortunate for people living there but it’s a serious situation,” she said.

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