AHA welcomes regional tourism plan, but calls for fairer hospitality deal

15 March, 2021 by Andy Young

Both the Australian Hotels Association and Tourism Accommodation Australia have welcomed the Federal Government’s regional tourism plan, but say more needs to be done to help struggling capital cities and more regional areas.

AHA CEO Stephen Ferguson he was looking forward to working with government and further stimulus packages to help protect hospitality jobs, saying all businesses still impacted by the pandemic need help.

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“The Government’s plan focuses on regional areas hard hit by COVID – and, in some cases bushfires and drought – and we welcome that,” Ferguson said.

“While it is great to see Government assistance for battling tourism areas like Far North Queensland and the entire aviation industry, we need to ensure all businesses still affected by the pandemic are looked after, especially with a ‘job cliff’ coming.

“Hospitality businesses were the first to close a year ago. We are proud of the role we have played in keeping the community safe, but we need to remember most hospitality and accommodation businesses are still heavily impact by a wide range of restrictions such as international border closures. With JobKeeper winding up on 28 March, we are still very concerned at redundancies in our businesses which have been left out of this new plan.”

Ferguson added that the Government needs to keep a “laser focus” on the hospitality sector moving forward as it was still struggling financially.

“While the interest free loans announced today are welcome to some extent, the last thing most of these well-loved local venues need at this time is more loans and even more debt – most pubs are already servicing pre-existing debt due to COVID,” Ferguson said.

Tourism Accommodation Australia CEO Michael Johnson said Australia’s main international gateway cities Sydney and Melbourne are struggling with less than 35 percent hotel capacity, but were largely ignored in today’s Federal Government $1.2b tourism package.

“Accommodation occupancy rates in both Sydney and Melbourne are below the 35% mark – that means only 35% of our workforce is employed with JobKeeper set to end,” he said.

“While some regional tourism areas are actually flourishing, occupancy rates in Sydney and Melbourne CBDs are languishing. That figure will not improve for some time yet given the lack of corporate travel, conference and events and international tourism.

“We need large numbers of visitors to come to both Sydney and Melbourne to make up the huge short-fall – otherwise we will lose even more of our skilled staff. How are businesses in Sydney and Melbourne meant to retain what’s left of their skilled workforce without any assistance?”