Government pledges $1bn for tourism in wake of coronavirus

The Federal Government has pledged $1 billion of direct support and relief for tourism businesses in response to the coronavirus crisis.

The money comes from the government’s $17 billion stimulus package, which includes direct cash payments to those on a low income, wage subsidies for apprentices and trainees, significant expansion of the instant asset write-off and administrative relief from the ATO.

To be led by Minister for Tourism Simon Birmingham, the $1 billion fund will include subsidies and allowances, such as waiving marine park and national park fees for businesses operating in areas like the Great Barrier Reef Marine Park, as well as increased domestic tourism promotion.

A coronavirus regional and community fund will also be established under the government package to assist communities and businesses in regional areas.

“There are businesses across this country that will be more impacted than most and there will be regions and communities across this country that will be more impacted than others, those in particular in more remote areas, those who are particularly exposed when it comes to the external sectors of the economy – the tourism sector, travel sector, parts of export sector, in crayfishing, in places where that is a predominant activity and that is a significant exposure,” Prime Minister Scott Morrison said.

Tax-free payments for small to medium sized businesses will help ease the cashflow hardship many are facing and help them to pay bills, pay staff and stay afloat.

Businesses with a turnover of less than $50 million will be eligible for a tax-free payment up to $25,000 to help strengthen cashflows that have been under increased pressure over the past many weeks.

The expanded instant asset write-off now made available to businesses with a turnover of up to $500 million, with the threshold increased from $30,000 to $150,000.

A 15-month investment incentive will see accelerated depreciation allowing businesses with turnover of less than $500 million to deduct 50 per cent of costs on eligible assets.

The Victoria Tourism Industry Council (VTIC) said the measure will “greatly support businesses in their efforts to stay afloat”.

“This package announced today provides welcome relief to our tourism and events operators across Victoria who have been struggling under the strain of impacts from coronavirus,” said Victoria Tourism Industry Council VTIC chief executive Felicia Mariani.

“The fact that $1 billion of this $17 billion package has been dedicated to addressing issues in the tourism industry is a clear indication of the Federal Government’s commitment to this sector.

“The ATO relief, accelerated depreciation, direct cash payments and support for casual staff who need to self-quarantine will go a long way to addressing the pressures the industry has been feeling.

“We know this is going to be an incredibly difficult period for the tourism industry across Victoria and indeed across the country. Our regions across the state are still reeling from the impacts of the bushfire crisis on the sector. Coronavirus has added yet another weight to an industry that has been operating under extreme pressure since the start of the new year.”

The Australian Tourism Export Council (ATEC) also welcomed the “solid commitment” from the federal government to address the impacts of the coronavirus on the Australian economy.

“ATEC is pleased the government is making a solid commitment to sustaining the tourism industry in the wake of the Covid-19 outbreak,” ATEC managing director Peter Shelley said.

“We have been greatly concerned by the impact the contraction in international travel will have on tourism’s future – we just can’t afford to lose the important distribution channels currently in place. We are particularly happy with the commitment to support businesses where there has been a supply-chain breakdown as a result of the virus outbreak.

“Despite the bushfires and subsequent Covid-19 crisis, the industry has been doing what it can to keep the doors open – this is a dire time and the industry needs every bit of support it can get.”