Call for JobKeeper underspend to go to tourism

The tourism sector is pushing for the surplus money from the JobKeeper program be used to support beleaguered operators across the nation.

The Federal Government has conceded a $60 billion forecasting error in the total spend for the program, with many fewer workers registered for it than originally reported.

With just 3.5 million workers currently enrolled for the $1500 fortnightly payments, tourism and accommodation leaders are calling for the surplus funds be directed directly to support their sectors.

Treasurer Josh Frydenberg has said the tourism sector “could be one sector in need of further support”.

“That’s what we’ll look at in the context of the economic situation at the time,” Frydenberg told the ABC.

Accor has stood down half of its 21,000 workers in Australia, where 70 of the group’s 380 hotels are closed and the rest are operating on single digit occupancy rates.

Accor’s chief operating officer Simon McGrath said he wanted to see the JobKeeper program extended for those in the tourism and hospitality sector until at least December.

“We’re still at the infant stages of reopening,” he told The Gold Coast Bulletin. “Any momentum being seen in leisure is a very small step forward.

“The December to January period … there will be more momentum in tourism and borders opened, more facilities open, mass gatherings and it will be a stronger period than September.”

The Australian Tourism Export Council (ATEC) has also thrown its support behind an extension of the program.

“Export tourism has been the hardest hit export industry this year,” said ATEC managing director Peter Shelley.

“From the bushfires which saw our peak tourist season disappear to the fact we will not see any international visitors before next Summer, 2020 will be remembered as the year from hell for export tourism.

“Tourism is a huge part of Australia’s economy and export tourism has been one of our strongest growth industries over the past decade, delivering more than $45 billion in visitor spending last year, it’s an industry we can’t afford to lose.

“For the thousands of export tourism businesses who are ATEC members, and the entire tourism industry, the suggestion of additional support provides those businesses greater confidence to keep going and ride out their toughest year.”