Caravan industry calls for tax incentives

The caravan and camping industry, which represents the largest group of Australian holidaymakers, is calling for concessional funding for tourism operators and personal tax deductions for domestic travel.

The Caravan Industry Association of Australia says they are initiatives designed to encourage increased support of businesses rocked by COVID-19 and border closures and that any concessional funding could be paid back once a return to profit occurs.

With the everchanging environment of border closures, the devastating and long-lasting impacts of last season’s bushfires, and challenges with accessing insurance, many businesses still face the real prospect of closure.

The Association’s General Manager Insights and Advocacy, Peter Clay, told AccomNews that tax and concessional initiatives could provide a massive boost for Australian tourism and should be coupled with increased access to business advisory services to help operators pivot to new opportunities and manage cashflow.

“We acknowledge the need for government to move forward and to stop the handouts with more sustainable packages for businesses,” Mr Clay said.

“From a tourism perspective the caravan industry is not the hardest hit – we’re doing better than travel agents and providers who are relying on international trade .

“But there are a number of our businesses that are being impacted because of hotspots and border closures and what we are proposing is concessional loans similar to the university HECS loans so that when businesses return to profit they can pay the debt back.

It’s not a handout – it’s about helping cashflows. Some businesses might not be able to trade for a couple months or they have lost the last six or eight months’ worth of business but now need to prepare for the summer season.

Mr Clay said a tax incentive program was a long-term method of encouraging people to travel within Australia.

“A lot of European countries are using tax incentives to stimulate travel,’’ he said.

“Our research shows that Australian properties a couple of hours from the city are doing OK but if you’re really remote in the NT or Outback Queensland consumers still see too much risk at the moment because of the lingering threat of snap border closures.”

Mr Clay said caravans and camping were critical to domestic tourism and the recovery of regional Australia.

The latest insights from Tourism Research Australia for the September 2020 quarter again shows that caravan and camping are the most popular holiday accommodation types for Australians, accounting for 44 per cent of all holiday nights across Australia.

The insights revealed that over 1.9 million caravan and camping holidays were undertaken by Australians nationally, creating 8.4 million nights for the September Quarter 2020 alone. While this represented a national decline of 28 percent and 14 per cent respectively from 2019, this was well ahead of broader tourism numbers in the COVID era.

CEO of Caravan Industry Association of Australia, Stuart Lamont said “We welcome the comments by the Prime Minister … on the importance of domestic tourism to Australia’s visitor economy and whilst caravan and camping visitor numbers still remain down on 2019, the latest data from TRA reaffirms the important role caravan and camping has in driving the economic recovery of the visitor economy.

“We live in a world of fragile consumer confidence at present creating a two-speed economy. Whilst it is important that governments make health the first priority for Australians, concerns remain for those operators and communities in border towns, transit regions and remote locations that are continuing to feel the financial pain of border closures and are not enjoying the spoils of Australia’s fascination with the caravan and camping lifestyle.”

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