The CEO of the Tourism and Transport Forum Australia has said that it cannot expect businesses to survive on domestic tourism alone, as international travel restrictions are expected to stay in place throughout 2021.
The call comes from the CEO of Tourism Australia just a day after the Health Department confirmed that international travel to Australia is not expected to take place in 2021.
“I think we’ll go most of this year with still substantial border restrictions,” the Health Department Secretary, Brendan Murphy said. “Even if we have a lot of the population vaccinated, we don’t know whether that will prevent transmission of the virus, and it’s likely that quarantine will continue for some time.”
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This prompted a response from Margy Osmond, the Tourism and Transport Forum CEO who says that while her organisation respects the medical guidelines put out by the government, the economic reality for Australian businesses is set to be unparalleled.
“There is no way that domestic tourism can fill the gap that will be left by inbound international [travel], no way,” Ms Osmond said.
“Essentially, your average Chinese visitor to Australia probably spends $8,500 while they’re here. Your average Aussie who heads off for a holiday is probably spending about $1,500,” she added.
“Make no mistake,” she said, “while international borders remain closed, we have no hope of recovery.”
Ms Osmond’s organisation, the Tourism and Transport Forum are calling on state governments to introduce one set of border restrictions in the case of virus outbreaks. She cited the impact of the Northern Beaches virus cluster during the Christmas holiday period, stating that this lost billions of dollars for holiday operators.
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A report from the ABC says that “the Commonwealth had been pushing for a nationally agreed-upon definition of a COVID-19 hotspot, but most states and territories have adopted their own thresholds for imposing restrictions.”
The Tourism and Transport Forum is calling on the government to introduce a new set of stimulus packages for the tourism sector, stating that the industry is in dire need of support when the JobKeeper package comes to an end in March.
“Government is going to have to think very seriously about how it supports this industry for the next couple of years, not just the next couple of months, if it wants to have a tourism industry when we actually reopen our international borders.”
Federal Treasurer, Josh Frydenberg has recently rebuked calls for an extension of the JobKeeper payment, stating that the stimulus was always designed to be temporary.
The Treasurer instead pointed to a number of support measures that the government has been planning for the tourism industry, some of which offer a regional tourism fund and payments for travel agents that have been unable to operate.
“For example, there is a $100 million plus program for travel agents, who have been hit hard, and the tourism sector more generally, as well as increased support for the aviation sector.” Frydenberg added that “I’m confident that the key pillars of our economic response are in place.”
The ABC’s report quotes Chairman of the Australian Federation of Travel Agents, Tom Manwaring, who says that far more support will be needed to pull the embattled industry from the ashes.
“We need to just garner our strength, try and get through another nine months of darkness and hope that the forward sales of the summer of ‘22 are strong enough to keep businesses alive.”
“But without support, there’s no chance,” Mr Manwaring concluded.